Football: Wright returns to face Spartak

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

MARK WRIGHT will take his first step towards regaining a place in the centre of England's defence when he returns for Liverpool against Spartak Moscow in the first leg of their European Cup-Winners' Cup second round tie tomorrow night.

The 29-year-old former Southampton and Derby defender was a surprise omission from the squad selected by Graham Taylor for the World Cup qualifying game against Norway at Wembley last Wednesday.

He was also overlooked by Liverpool for their FA Premier League visit to Manchester United last Sunday despite confirming his recovery from a thigh strain. But Wright now has an excellent chance to reassert himself in Moscow because the Dane Torben Piechnik, who only moved to Anfield last month, is ineligible.

Wright's future was the subject of some speculation while Liverpool were leaking goals regularly last month, but there have been no firm bids for the player who became an England regular after his successful recall as a sweeper by Bobby Robson during the 1990 World Cup finals. Taylor wanted him for the European Championship finals in Sweden last summer, but Wright was ruled out with Achilles tendon trouble after a long-running fitness saga.

Two other England players are included in the 16-strong Liverpool party. The full-back Rob Jones and midfielder Michael Thomas have recovered from injuries and could start against Spartak, who won the Russian championship last Sunday with a 4-1 win over Moscow rivals Lokomotiv.

'We know they are a good side, but we have been playing well recently and it is up to us to continue doing so,' Graeme Souness, the Liverpool manager, said.

Joe Jordan, the Hearts manager, faces injury worries over three players for tonight's Uefa Cup second round tie against Standard Liege at Tynecastle.

Alan McLaren, a defender, and the midfielder Ally Mauchlen are both doubtful, but Jordan is optimistic that the midfielder Tosh McKinlay, who injured a thigh against Dundee United last Saturday, will be fit.

Jordan hopes his team have learned from the first-round win over Slavia Prague when Hearts went through 4-3 on aggregate after winning 4-2 at Tynecastle.

'We need to be a bit more professional than against Slavia at home. Our naivety cost us both goals, but I think the players feel they learned a lot from the match,' he said. 'They know they can't go out and chase goals willy-nilly.

'Technique-wise, I don't think Standard are any better than Slavia. But where they have an advantage is that they're more hardened and have more knowledge of how to handle European ties.'

An influential figure is likely to be the former Scottish international midfielder, Eamonn Bannon, who will be playing his 66th European tie.