After a stuttering start to the domestic campaign, Liverpool should look welcomely at the distraction of a Europa League group stage clash with Steaua Bucharest at Anfield.
An uninspiring goalless draw against Birmingham City precedes Thursday's European clash and in that Premier League fixture, star players Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard were criticized for failing to galvanize their team-mates in a limp display.
However, both stars will be denied redeeming themselves in front of the Kop against the Romanians as manager Roy Hodgson looks to spare his best players the ordeal of an early season slog through the Europa League foothills. That means Torres, Gerrard and even Jamie Carragher are likely to be rested, with new signing Raul Meireles set for a full debut and Joe Cole filling in as he looks to gain fitness upon his return from suspension.
Despite the refreshened player selection, Hodgson will want a good run in the competition after the Reds reached the semi-finals last season, where they were knocked out by eventual winners Atletico Madrid. Hope will be gleamed from the fact that in the only previous meeting between Liverpool and Steaua, during a Uefa Cup tie in 2003-04, the Reds came out on top with a 1-0 win at Anfield after a 1-1 draw in Romania. They can also boast a stretch of 10 unbeaten games in the Uefa Cup/Europa League itself at Anfield.
Meanwhile, Steaua head into this clash after a solid start to their league campaign. They currently sit in third place after seven games and are level on points with leaders and city rivals Dinamo. New boss Ilie Dumitrescu, club legend and former Spurs and West Ham player, will be hoping to end a barren few years for the most decorated club in the history of Romanian football.
The Romanian giants finished fourth last season but won the last of their record 23 league titles in 2005-06. And the match at Anfield comes at a somewhat difficult spell for the side who have failed to win in their last three matches. Last weekend they were beaten 1-0 at Unirea Urziceni, who Liverpool knocked out of the Europa League at the last 32 stage last season.
However, Steaua have pedigree in Europe and won the European Cup in their halcyon days in 1986 when they beat a Barcelona side managed by Terry Venables 2-0 on penalties after a goalless draw. They followed that up a couple of months later by defeating Dinamo Kiev to lift the European Super Cup. Steaua also reached the 1989 European Cup final but lost 4-0 to AC Milan. These achievements are long in the past though, and any unfounded optimism will be tempered by the fact that the Romanians have never beaten an English side on the road.
New left-back Paul Konchesky should be fit to face Steaua despite failing to last 90 minutes against Birmingham City at the weekend.
Raul Meireles is set for a full debut alongside Joe Cole with Hodgson also giving a chance to youngster Daniel Pacheco.
Daniel Agger is set to return to his favoured position in central defence, while Dirk Kuyt is out with a long-term injury.
Possible starting XI: Reina; Johnson, Kyrgiakos, Agger, Konchesky; Poulsen, Meireles; Pacheco, Cole, Babel; N'Gog.
Striker Bogdan Stancu is likely to be given the nod to lead the line up front and is the side's leading scorer this season with six goals.
Defender George Galamaz is ineligible, as is left-back Pablo Brandan, and strikers Marius Onofras and Marius Bilasco. All have played in the Champions League qualifiers for Unirea before joining Steaua and are thus ruled out.
Possible starting XI: Lungu; Latovlevici, Alves, Martinovic, Bonfim; Radut, Tanase, Angelov, Vilana, Matei; Stancu.