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Hodgson urges Kop cubs to seize their chance

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson has urged his young players to grasp their chance to impress tonight.

Hodgson is putting faith in youth for his first competitive match in charge having chosen not to risk several senior stars for their Europa League qualifier against Rabotnicki in Macedonia. Only three of the 13 Liverpool players granted extra leave after the World Cup have made the trip to the Balkans.

That means lesser lights such as Diego Cavalieri, Martin Kelly, Stephen Darby and Jay Spearing could get an opportunity to shine. Other youngsters in the squad include new signing Jonjo Shelvey, Nathan Eccleston, Peter Gulacsi, David Amoo, Lauri Dalla Valle and Tom Ince.

Hodgson said: "It is not sink or swim -- it would be very harsh to write off a player's chances of becoming a good player on the evidence of a game. I think it is more an opportunity to swim than to fear for them sinking.

"But we are obliged to put our European fate into the hands of many inexperienced players. We can only hope that, because they've got talent, they will come through against an experienced and well-versed team in European football like Rabotnicki.

"It is a massive step for them but it is a step up you have to experience. You can't talk people through it.

"If you are going to become a top player at a club like Liverpool, and experience European football for many years, you have to be able to handle it."

England players Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, Jamie Carragher and Glen Johnson returned to training last week but Hodgson did not want to risk them 17 days before the Premier League starts. Javier Mascherano and Maxi Rodriguez only came back this week while Fernando Torres, Jose Reina, Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel are still on holiday.

Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Lucas, David Ngog and new recruit Milan Jovanovic make up a handful of senior players on display.

Meanwhile, Liverpool are thought to want to bolster their ranks with Aston Villa defender Luke Young.

Martin O'Neill has confirmed an unnamed club has made an offer for the 30-year-old but Hodgson would not comment on suggestions that that is Liverpool. When asked yesterday about Young and on rumours linking winger Rodriguez with a return to Espanyol, the 62-year-old said: "They are not playing tonight."