Liverpool's 18-year-old Scotland international defender Danny Wilson will be given an immediate chance to demonstrate to Roy Hodgson that he can help fill the gap created by Jamie Carragher's three-month absence, when he starts tomorrow's Europa League match against Steaua Bucharest.
Liverpool announced yesterday that they could be without Carragher's presence at the heart of central defence until mid-March when it was confirmed he will need surgery on the shoulder injury he suffered at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. The 32-year-old had initially hoped that a period of rest would restrict his absence to six weeks, but with Daniel Agger struggling to recover from calcification caused by a calf injury, Hodgson now has only two established centre-halves fit – Martin Skrtel and Sotirios Kyrgiakos.
Wilson has started only one game – the demoralising Carling Cup defeat to Northampton Town in September – which is less than he hoped for when he arrived for £2m from Rangers in the summer. Wilson, like the other summer arrival Jonjo Shelvey, were viewed by Liverpool as worth a gamble on, since the modest outlay on them was relatively easy to recoup by selling them if they were not up to the standard. Shelvey has shown some promise in Europe. Now Wilson, who became the youngest player to play in the Champions League for Rangers when Walter Smith selected him just over a year ago, now has the chance to play a part.
Though either Kyrgiakos or Pepe Reina will be stand-in captain in the absence of both Carragher and Steven Gerrard, Carragher's absence increases the prospect of Liverpool looking for a centre-half next month. France international Adil Rami, one of a number of Lille players Roy Hodgson has watched, is consistent and has a physical strength that suggests he would be cut out for the Premier League, but he will not come cheap. Lille will want €15m (£12.5m) for the Moroccan-born player, which may be more than proprietors New England Sports Ventures are willing to pay.
Hodgson will also start the promising 20-year-old right-back Martin Kelly in Bucharest, where Liverpool – needing only a point to progress and a victory to go through as Group K winners – will also field Joe Cole, Ryan Babel, Milan Jovanovic, Christian Poulsen and Shelvey.
Fernando Torres will not travel with the squad. Striker Daniel Pacheco may also get another chance to prove himself, from the bench.