Andy Carroll could make his full Liverpool debut in Thursday’s Europa League visit to Portugal to play Braga.
The £35million January signing came off the bench in the 3-1 win over Manchester United on Sunday after overcoming the ankle problem that had delayed his bow since his move from Newcastle United. Now, there is a chance that he might get his first start in the first leg of the last 16 tie with the Portuguese challengers, or he may yet once again begin the game among the substitutes if manager Kenny Dalglish opts to be cautious.
Carroll’s fellow January addition Luis Suarez cannot play at the AXA Stadium as he is ineligible, while Steven Gerrard has been left out of the travelling party, as the club assesses a niggling groin problem.
Dirk Kuyt scored the winner against Sparta Prague in the last round and will be hungry to get out on the pitch once again after his hat-trick against rivals United, while further back Glen Johnson should start at right back with Danny Wilson set to get the nod across the field and Raul Meireles a likely starter on his return to his home nation.
Other full backs Martin Kelly and Fabio Aurelio will both miss the next month with hamstring injuries, while Daniel Agger has a calf problem. Reserve full backs John Flanagan and Emmanuel Mendy have made the trip, but there is no Raheem Sterling this time.
Braga have already had some decent scalps in Europe this term with Celtic, Sevilla (twice) and Arsenal all among the sides they have earned wins against before bowing out of the Champions League. They reached this stage after getting the better of Lech Poznan in the round of 32.
In all they have lost seven of their ten previous meetings with English opposition, but have made a concerted effort to expand on last season’s fine second-placed finish in their own league and edged second-placed Benfica in a tough encounter on Sunday, their last outing before their first ever meeting with the Reds.
In Brazilians Rodrigo Lima, Alan and Paulo Cesar they have several threats to Liverpool’s consistent habit of playing out 0-0 draws in their away games in this competition, while former Newcastle man Hugo Viana is among their other creative threats.