Andy Carroll versus Kaka sounds like the stuff of PlayStation but it could be a contest that risks curtailing the full debut of the Premier League's most expensive Englishman.
Footballers do not tend to forget and, as he prepares to lead Liverpool's attack in a game they have to win to survive in the Europa League, Carroll will remember the elbow delivered by Claudiano Bezerra da Silva, who shares his nickname with Brazilian football's pin-up boy. It came late in Liverpool's utterly forgettable first-leg defeat in Braga and was a sign that the big striker alone caused the Portuguese side any problems.
Kenny Dalglish was surprised Uefa did not review the incident, for which the Belgian referee, Serge Gumienny, failed to award even a foul. However, the Liverpool manager, who argued that Kaka had deliberately targeted Carroll, said he expected the man for whom he paid £35m to take his revenge in a considered way.
"The best way for him to respond would be to do what he did last week, which was to keep his composure," said the Scotsman. "That's a great credit to him. The best way for Andy to answer anything is to be on the winning side. That is the same for everyone because they will all be aggrieved. The best way to vent our anger will be to get a good result.
"If it were one of our players or a British player, there would have been mayhem. For something as deliberate as that, they must surely have some form of retrospective retribution. It is one thing going up to protect yourself; it is another going up to hurt an opponent. That was to hurt Andy."
There is only one result that will send Liverpool through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League and that is a home win by two clear goals – unless they are planning to go through via a penalty shoot-out, in which case matching Braga's 1-0 win from the first leg will suffice.
Steven Gerrard, who is recovering well from last week's groin operation, should be available for the quarter-finals, if Liverpool qualify. Given that Braga have lost four and drawn one of the five matches they have played on English soil, this is an achievable target. Two of those defeats, by Tottenham in 1984 and, more pertinently by Arsenal in this season's Champions League campaign were 6-0 routs.
Dalglish said he could not imagine Liverpool performing as lamely as they had done in Portugal and warned Braga that they, too, would have to improve their game to cope with the demands of Anfield. "We will step up our game and if Braga do not step up to the plate they could be in a bit of trouble," he said.
Nevertheless, since only the fifth-placed side in the Premier League will qualify for next season's Europa League, this is a competition Liverpool will probably have to win if their football is not to be purely domestic for the first time since 2000. These European encounters should be savoured because the next might be a long time coming.
Rangers v PSV
Rangers manager Walter Smith will field more attacking players than usual in tonight's home Europa League match with PSV Eindhoven. Rangers drew 0-0 away in the first leg, putting them in a strong position but one with which they are fairly unfamiliar.
It is the first time since a 4-0 victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv four years ago that Rangers have played the second leg of a European tie at Ibrox; their run to the Uefa Cup final in 2008 involved first-leg ties at Ibrox and second legs away. "We'll have to change a little bit from the way we have played, especially in away games," Smith conceded. "Although we have kept a very similar formation, we have approached the home games in a slightly different fashion, both in the Champions League and against Sporting Lisbon. We had more attacking personnel within the same set-up so we just have to find the right balance, that's the important part for us. But we know at some stage in the game we have to attack and try to win the game."
Steven Naismith, who missed both legs of the previous tie with Sporting Lisbon has been passed fit although he may start on the bench. Nikica Jelavic is ineligible, while Jamie Ness, and Lee McCulloch remain out.Reuse content