Roy Hodgson, the Liverpool manager, has no qualms about bringing back his big names for tonight's Europa League third qualifying round second-leg tie against Rabotnicki. Despite holding a 2-0 lead from last week's match in Macedonia the likes of Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and new signing Joe Cole are likely to be involved having made their first pre-season appearances in a friendly against Borussia Monchengladbach at the weekend. Maxi Rodriguez, the Argentina international, could even be in the squad despite having returned from his post-World Cup break only 10 days ago.
Javier Mascherano, the wantaway midfielder, will not be selected as he was not registered for the early stages of the competition, whereas Hodgson admits they took a chance on the England contingent and Rodriguez being ready. Fernando Torres and Jose Reina, the Spanish World Cup winning pair, and Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel, the Holland duo, will not be considered as they only returned to training on Monday.
"I will put out the strongest team it is possible to put out," said Hodgson. "We are stronger on paper than we were in the first game because players that I did not consider using have now played at least 45 minutes on Sunday. "That gives me a chance to throw them into the game. There are a few that are just back after their holidays and we won't be risking them, of course. "But we will have a stronger squad than the one we took to Skopje.
"If they are senior players and they have been training with us for the last week or so since we got back and the medical people are confident we can use them without prejudicing their future we will use them." Zoran Stratev, the Rabotnicki coach, is already resigned to his team's fate, acknowledging they cannot even dream of competing with the likes of the five-time European champions. "Macedonian football is at this level and I don't think we can do any more - but our fans may hope for something special in the match," he said.
Hodgson's powers of persuasion were enough to convince Torres that his future is at Anfield but the former Fulham manager admits he may be powerless to prevent Mascherano from leaving. "I think it will be slightly more difficult to persuade Javier to stay if a big offer comes in from a club he wants to go to." Hodgson said. * PA