ROY HODGSON is ready to shuffle his pack tonight as he aims to protect his star players ahead of Monday’s showdown with Manchester City.
Though the Liverpool manager will not be taking Trabzonspor lightly, he will make changes as he knows it is not conducive to ask players to churn out consecutive 90-minute performances at this stage of the campaign.
Definitely missing will be Daniel Agger (concussion) and Javier Mascherano (calf) but Hodgson could even be tempted to take Steven Gerrard out of the firing line this evening in order to have him firing on all cylinders at Eastlands.
Hodgson has confirmed new signing Christian Poulsen will be in the squad for the Europa League play-off, as will Dutch winger Ryan Babel, who has yet to play any competitive football since returning from his summer break.
While he would love nothing more than to lead Liverpool to a European trophy, that target is some way down the road this season and Hodgson knows the importance of the impending clash with City.
He said: “If you are going to prioritise, you always prioritise the Premier League – that might even go for Champions League teams – but you would like to do both. But we take it very seriously and we will be doing our best to play well and win the game. We would like to go through.
“Quite frankly, when you add in international games, I don’t think there is a squad around that could cope with playing 70 matches a season. It’s totally unrealistic.
“You would need an awful lot of luck to go all the way. But we will be treating Trabzonspor with the utmost respect. They have got a very good record in Europe.
“We have seen regularly in Europe what Fenerbahce and Galatasary can do. Trabzonspor beat Fenerbahce in the Turkish Cup to reach this final.
“We know we are playing against a team of the very highest level. We’ve got two legs and we have been preparing for a tough game. We need two good performances.”
Hodgson, meanwhile, is hoping to add a couple more faces to his squad before the transfer window closes but he has reiterated he has no desire to cash in on any big names such as Mascherano, Babel and Dirk Kuyt, who is a target for Inter.
“Everything is looking very good,” said Hodgson. “We have got a very good set of players; I was fearful when I came that I might lose one or two with the speculation.
“But things are looking that much better. I’m pleased the players who have served the club so well in the past are still here.
“We aren’t in a situation where we can let players go without replacing them, if they are in our plans for the 25 man squad.
“Javier will always be in my plans until the day comes when he leaves the club. If I get my way, that will be a long time in the future. He is injured at the minute so he won’t play (tonight) as he has only just started trying to jog.
“We are now trying to get him fit for Monday. That’s our worry.”