Rabotnicki vs Liverpool – Hodsgon admits preparation not ideal
Liverpool are beginning their competitive season far earlier than they would have hoped by taking on Rabotnicki in the third qualifying round of the Europa League at 7.45pm tonight.
And manager Roy Hodgson admits that after the bright start to his Anfield reign, the storm clouds are moving in overhead, despite Liverpool being 2/9 to beat the side who came second in the Macedonian first division.
“I could not have envisaged at the start of my time at Liverpool a more difficult situation than the one I find myself in,” Hodgson said of the match in the Macedonian capital Skopje. “It would have been nice if the game was played later and we could field what we think is our strongest team, but we cannot.”
Indeed, Hodgson has left all his English World Cup players at home, including new boy Joe Cole and captain Steven Gerrard, as well as Argentinian duo Maxi Rodriguez and wantaway Javier Mascherano.
World Cup finalists Dirk Kuyt and injured Fernando Torres also miss the trip, meaning Hodgson is left with a largely inexperienced squad for to pick from.
The Liverpool boss explained: “It would have been complete folly to try to play 90 minutes of football in an important competition in difficult conditions with players who have been training for just four days.”
Youngsters such as David Amoo (7/1 to score first), Jonjo Shelvey (7/1), Nathan Eccleston (7/1), Lauri Dalla Valle (7/1), Martin Hansen, Peter Gulacsi and Tom Ince have been included in the 20-man travelling party.
However, with internationals Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Alberto Aquilani, Lucas Leiva and Milan Jovanovic all part of the squad, Liverpool should have too much for a team playing in a league ranked 40th in Europe.
A 2-0 win for Liverpool is 5/1.
Rabotnicki haven’t conceded a goal in a run of four games to get to this stage, though, so should be stubborn to break down. They only lost 2-1 on aggregate to Sammy Lee’s Bolton in the first round of the 2007/08 Europa League as well, so a 1-0 win for Liverpool (6/1) might be a more astute bet.
Liverpool are the 9/1 second favourites for the Europa League title (behind Manchester City at 6/1) but the ranking of the competition in the list of priorities is uncertain, with Hodgson failing to clear matters up.