England winger Joe Cole could make his Liverpool debut this evening as the Reds prepare for the second leg of their Europa League clash with Rabotnicki Skopje.
Liverpool lead 2-0 from the first leg in Macedonia and summer signing Cole could make his first appearance for the Anfield club, potentially alongside other English World Cup players Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, along with Argentina’s Maxi Rodriguez.
“I will put out the strongest team possible,” said manager Roy Hodgson, talking ahead of the third qualifying round tie.
“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,” added Hodgson. “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.”
Spainish pair Fernando Torres and Jose Reina will not be considered because they returned to training only this week. Netherlands strikers Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel are in the same position.
Javier Mascherano, who was not registered for the early stages of the competition, will not feature either.
But Cole, captain Gerrard and Carragher may play after featuring in the friendly match against Borussia Moenchengladbach at the weekend.
Hodgson concluded: “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.”
Rabotnicki will probably name the same side as the one that lost in Skopje on Thursday, but coach Zoran Stratev has admitted there is little he can do to improve his team’s chances. “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.