Alonso awaits call as Gerrard pulls out injured

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The Independent Football

Xabi Alonso, who has played just half a reserve match since New Year's Day, is on stand-by to replace Steven Gerrard after the injured Liverpool captain was forced to withdraw from tomorrow's Champions' League second-leg match against Juventus in Turin's Delle Alpi stadium.

Xabi Alonso, who has played just half a reserve match since New Year's Day, is on stand-by to replace Steven Gerrard after the injured Liverpool captain was forced to withdraw from tomorrow's Champions' League second-leg match against Juventus in Turin's Delle Alpi stadium.

Gerrard suffered a groin strain in the closing stages of Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Manchester City. He did not join in the post-match "warm-down" for fear of aggravating the problem and was ruled out yesterday after he failed to respond to treatment. The England midfielder, who was at his inspirational best in the first leg against the Italians, will not even travel with the squad for a game which Liverpool will start leading 2-1 from the match at Anfield.

With Dietmar Hamann still ruled out by a knee injury, Rafael Benitez's only fit and experienced central midfielder is the Croat, Igor Biscan. The Liverpool manager will also consider the merits of the home-grown duo of Darren Potter and John Welsh, but for a match of such importance he is likely to turn to Alonso.

The Spaniard, a £10.6m signing from Real Sociedad last summer, suffered a broken ankle against Chelsea on 1 January. Since then, the only competitive football he has played is 45 minutes in Liverpool's second team defeat by Leeds United last week, though he was an unused substitute in the game with Juventus a week ago tonight. Milan Baros and Sami Hyypia, who missed the match at the City of Manchester Stadium, will both be in the party that flies out from John Lennon Airport this morning.

Around 3,000 Liverpool supporters will also make their way to Turin. They will travel against a backdrop of threats by Juventus ultras who claim they intend to avenge the deaths of 39, mainly Italian, spectators before the European Cup final between the clubs at the Heysel Stadium 20 years ago.

A spokesman for the London Juventus supporters club, Eugenio Forzajuve, said he had been told at Anfield that some "black-and-white fighters" planned to make Liverpool fans "bleed". He added: "How can we put [Heysel] to rest when we have idiots like that out there?"

A group of Liverpool fans calling themselves the "Urchins" have vowed on the internet to "tear up Turin". Meanwhile, the Mayor of Turin has urged the public to inform the police about any threats to attack Liverpool followers.

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