Thursday, August 23, 2012

Europa Cup Preview: Hearts vs Liverpool

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers will take a gamble on his fringe players on Thursday night as he names a weakened side for the Europa League clash at Hearts.

The Reds head to Tynecastle for the first leg of their qualifying clash without the likes of skipper Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson.

And though Rodgers clearly wants to rest his main men for Sunday’s Anfield clash with Premier League champions Manchester City, such rotation doesn’t bode well for their continental campaign.

His assistant manager Colin Pascoe admitted squad rotation would play a key part in Liverpool’s Europa League campaign.

“With the squad and the players we have got here it’s fantastic so you have to rotate the players because you play on a Saturday, then a Thursday and a Sunday, so it’s an opportunity for all the players to perform,” he said.

“One minute you are in the Europa League and the next we will be playing Manchester City, then it’s the second leg against Hearts followed by Arsenal.

“There are some fantastic games and teams who you want to play against. These are games we can’t wait for.”

Also missing will be left-back Jose Enrique (knee) and Joe Cole, while new man Oussama Assaidi is ineligible after featuring for former club Heerenveen in an earlier round.

The hosts will be forced to run a late fitness test on goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald, who may give way for new signing Peter Enckelman.

MacDonald’s pregnant partner was admitted to hospital yesterday, meaning that the former Aston Villa netminder may be required to stand in for him — and he is ready to do so.

Enckelman said: “It’s a lot to take in during a week but the good thing is I’m old. I think I’ve got a reasonably wise head on my shoulders so experience should see me through.

“Obviously it’s not ideal preparation for me but at the same time I’ve been trying to keep myself ticking over during the summer.”

Hearts lost 5-0 at home to Tottenham at the same stage last term and the tie was all but over in the opening half hour as Spurs netted three times.

Enckelman added: “The lads are well aware of what happened last year and are very eager to put it right.”

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