Liverpool aristocrats sample life in Kaunas backwater

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The Independent Football

Rafael Benitez's side play FBK Kaunas tonight, and the facilities on offer in Lithuania's second city left Liverpool in no doubt that a defence of their title has begun among the genuine backwaters of European football.

The stadium, which resembles a university sports complex, was named in honour of two local men who attempted to take a glider from New York to Kaunas in 1933. The fact that they crashed and died just outside Berlin has failed to diminish their reputations.

"We don't really know what to expect," admitted Benitez. "We have watched a few videos, read a few reports, but until we get out and play we won't know what they are really about. We think we're favourites, but people thought it would be easy against TNS and you can never say that before a game."

The Liverpool manager has included Milan Baros in his squad, although that is no assurance that his Liverpool career remains alive with interest growing from Aston Villa, and he refused to be drawn on reports of a breakthrough in his pursuit of Luis Figo.

It was the 11th League defeat away from Anfield last season that cost Liverpool automatic re-entry into this season's Champions' League and prompted Benitez to purchase Peter Crouch at a cost of £7m. Benitez is expected to hand Crouch his competitive debut tonight.

In FBK Kaunas, Liverpool will be facing a team who are midway through their own domestic season. However, for all the millions bestowed by their main sponsor and Hearts major shareholder Vladimir Romanov, they currently trail the leaders, Ekranas, by 12 points and Liverpool should be expected to conquer the Lithuanian side without too much difficulty.

FBK Kaunas (probable): Kurskis, Machcetia, Kancelskis, Zelmikas, Baguzis, Barecicius, Poderis, Tamosauskas, Petrenko, Velicka, Rimkedicius.

Liverpool (probable): Reina, Josemi, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Potter, Gerrard, Hamann, Zenden, Cissé, Crouch.

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