Tuesday 12 December 2017

Hodgson to decide whether Gerrard plays

Steven Gerrard. Photo: Getty Images
Steven Gerrard. Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson will not try to protect senior stars like Steven Gerrard when the club's Europa League campaign gets under way this week.

The 62-year-old will decide tomorrow whether the England captain, and his international team-mates Jamie Carragher, Glen Johnson and new signing Joe Cole, should be included for the third qualifying round tie in Macedonia against Rabotnicki.

Liverpool's medical team have advised the Englishman it is too soon to use those players who were on World Cup duty after just over a week back in pre-season training.

Hodgson has to weigh up whether it is more risky to leave the task of getting through into the competition proper in the hands of a largely reserve side who have not scored a goal in two warm-up matches.

But if he does select the likes of Gerrard he will at least respect their stature in the game by naming them in the starting line-up rather than keeping them on the bench for an emergency.

"I don't know what to do at this stage," he said.

"I will have to liaise with them and (head of sports science) Peter Brukner and make a decision by Tuesday on what sort of team I can put out.

"It is going to be a difficult discussion between myself and Peter because his feeling is we shouldn't use any of them and I am going to be tempted to say I want to use quite a few of them.

"The only players I will take will be the ones that I definitely think will play a valuable part in the game.

"If we are talking about senior players, it would be players prepared to start the game.

"I would not take Steven Gerrard there to play for the last 10 minutes as a substitute."

The recognised first-team players set to feature on Thursday irrespective of Hodgson's discussions with his medical staff will be midfielders Lucas Leiva and Alberto Aquilani and forwards David Ngog and new signing Milan Jovanovic.

Aquilani has recovered from a knee injury which kept him out of the weekend friendly defeat to Kaiserslautern while Jovanovic will play his first competitive match for Liverpool having been given 45 minutes in Germany.

The Serbia international played on the left wing but could easily find himself in a more central position up front against the Macedonians.

Wherever he is deployed the 29-year-old is just keen to get his Reds career off and running.

"I am really looking forward to it. For all players all over the world, you have to be proud when Liverpool come for you," said Jovanovic, a free transfer from Standard Liege.

"I have got to use every minute and every small chance and every game for Liverpool to show I deserve to be here.

"When I get more practice and I am fitter, I am confident I can help that team.

"I have never doubted my ability but the main thing at the minute is for me to get the feeling of the team."

Liverpool's two Argentina internationals Javier Mascherano and Maxi Rodriguez have returned to pre-season training after their post-World Cup holiday.

It means Hodgson will finally get chance to discuss his plans with Mascherano, one of Liverpool's key figures, having failed to speak to the player while he was away.

The Argentina captain, heavily linked with a reunion with former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez at Inter Milan, did not answer his phone or return a call from Hodgson while he was on leave in his homeland.

But he returned to Melwood on schedule to begin preparations for the new season.

Press Association

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