Stars to miss Europa opener
Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson says he won't risk any of his squad's 2010 FIFA World Cup™ stars in their early Europa League qualifier. Hodgson's team face a third qualifying round clash against either Macedonian side Rabotnicki or Armenia's Mika later this month in what will be the former Fulham manager's first competitive match in charge of the Reds.
With the first leg scheduled for 29 July, Hodgson knows he is going to have to kick off without Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano, Jose Reina, Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel, Daniel Agger, Glen Johnson, Jamie Carragher and already-injured Fernando Torres. Hodgson's medical staff have warned him about forcing those players back into action too early after their gruelling season finally came to an end in South Africa earlier this month.
"Possibly none of our World Cup players will play in the early Europa Cup games if we listen to the advice of the sports science people," Hodgson said. "They are telling me we would be very foolhardy to use players who have only been training for three or four days on the back of the World Cup that early on because that will affect us further on down the road. If we feel we are endangering our chances of doing well in the Premier League by risking players in the early stage of the Europa League, it will be a decision the club will have to take. You have to follow the guidance."
Gerrard, Carragher, Johnson and Agger will start individual fitness programmes at the club's Melwood training ground soon, but Mascherano, Reina, Kuyt and Babel will not return until after the Europa League first leg has been played. "Their [medical staff's] advice is to not use these players," Hodgson said. "If we have enough players to put a team out without them is another question. Things can happen before 29 July; we will not be speculating on that and there is no point in me making predictions of what the team will be like for that game. The sports science people are advising me not to use the players from the World Cup. Therefore new signings would become important for the Europa League."