Hodgson puts faith in fringe men

Roy Hodgson has insisted that those younger and fringe players who will feature in tonight's Europa League match away to Steaua Bucharest are not necessarily playing for their Anfield futures. Injuries and rotation will deprive Liverpool of much of their usual spine but Hodgson has said that it would be "too much to ask" were he to tie players' futures to their performances in Romania.

Jamie Carragher, who dislocated his shoulder at White Hart Lane last Sunday, has joined Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger on the sidelines while Hodgson has decided to rest some of his remaining regulars, including Fernando Torres, Maxi Rodriguez, Raul Meireles and Glen Johnson.

This will allow Hodgson to field a team of fringe and younger players at the Stadionul Steaua. Ryan Babel and Milan Jovanovic may well start, as might youngsters Danny Wilson and Martin Kelly. Joe Cole has recovered from a hamstring injury and will make his first start for five weeks. But Hodgson made it clear that these players will not be playing for their futures.

"It would be too much to ask. I don't think it would be fair," Hodgson said. "I think if you are going to be judged in that way you need to be playing with a large number of the more established players. I don't think it is correct to judge people too much when many of them are playing together and are obviously fairly inexperienced at this level."

Hodgson likes what he has seen of Liverpool's emerging players in Europe and hopes to see more of the same tonight. "In the couple of games so far, away at Utrecht and Napoli, they have not let me, the club or the fans down and I hope they will continue to do that in another difficult game tomorrow," he said.

Liverpool are unbeaten in the group stage after four games and know that a win in Bucharest will ensure that they win Group K, thereby guaranteeing their seeding for the round of 32. Liverpool can even win the group tonight without beating Bucharest, providing they draw and Utrecht do not beat Napoli. Mere qualification is just one point away, a target Hodgson is confident of achieving.

"It would be nice if we could get the point tomorrow but if not we will have to put our eggs into the basket of playing Utrecht at home," he said.

Liverpool (probable; 4-4-2): Reina; Kelly, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Wilson; Cole, Lucas, Poulsen, Jovanovic; Babel, N'Gog.

Group K

Results so far Liverpool 4 Steaua Bucharest 1, Napoli 0 Utrecht 0; Steaua Bucharest 3 Napoli 3, Utrecht 0 Liverpool 0; Napoli 0 Liverpool 0, Utrecht 1 Steaua Bucharest 1; Steaua Bucharest 3 Utrecht 1, Liverpool 3 Napoli 1.

Remaining fixtures Tonight: Steaua v Liverpool, Utrecht v Napoli. 15 Dec Napoli v Steaua; Liverpool v Utrecht.

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