Venue: Stadio Friuli
LIVERPOOL will be without Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger and Lucas Leiva on Thursday night as they head to Udinese for a crucial Europa League Group A match. The Reds must win to guarantee qualification for the knockout stages of the competition, while a draw could still be enough if Young Boys fail to win at home to Anzhi Makhachkala.
However, a loss at the Stadio Friuli would ensure that Liverpool go out of the Europa League regardless of the result in the other Group A game – defeat for both Liverpool and Young Boys would leave the teams level on seven points with Udinese, but the Swiss side would go through with a better head-to-head record in games between the three teams.
Brendan Rodgers originally intended to take Gerrard to Italy, but the Reds skipper was ruled out through illness and was not part of the 19-man squad that departed John Lennon Airport on Wednesday. Agger and Lucas were also omitted in order to rest them for Sunday’s fixture away to West Ham, but Luis Suarez, Pepe Reina and Jose Enrique were all part of the travelling party.
With Suarez suspended for the game at Upton Park, the Uruguayan is expected to start Thursday’s match and he will be making his first European away appearance for Liverpool if he does so.
Since coming from behind to beat Liverpool 3-2 at Anfield in October, Udinese have lost their last three European matches and ended a run of five games without a win in Serie A by beating Cagliari 4-1 at the weekend. Although the Italian side can no longer qualify for the knockout stage of the Europa League, they will want to get a result against the Reds to end their European campaign with honour.
Midfielder Giampiero Pinzi may return from injury for Udinese on Thursday, while Liverpool will be wary of striker Antonio Di Natale after his performance at Anfield was the key factor in Zebrette’s surprise victory. The Udinese captain has scored 12 goals in all competitions this season and the Reds will need to keep Di Natale in check if they are to advance from Group A.
Liverpool squad in full: Jones, Johnson, Enrique, Sahin, Suarez, Cole, Assaidi, Henderson, Coates, Downing, Carragher, Allen, Reina, Suso, Sterling, Shelvey, Coady, Skrtel, Wisdom.
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