McClaren admits Liverpool will be inspired by lost hero

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The Independent Football

The Middlesbrough manager, Steve McClaren, is preparing for an emotional occasion at Anfield tonight as his side maintain their bid to retain the League Cup.

The Middlesbrough manager, Steve McClaren, is preparing for an emotional occasion at Anfield tonight as his side maintain their bid to retain the League Cup.

The death of the Liverpool legend Emlyn Hughes yesterday at the age of 57 from a brain tumour following a 15-month battle has created an extra edge to the fourth-round tie.

McClaren was under no illusions that his players already faced a tough task in attempting to reach the quarter-finals and that Boro's nine-game unbeaten run is under serious threat.

"It was always going to be a difficult game anyway," said McClaren. "It will be emotional for everybody involved at Liverpool and for everybody involved in football, and I'm sure the people there will want to do it for Emlyn.

"You obviously have to take that into account, but then once the game starts it's purely down to football."

McClaren was just starting his playing career at Hull at a time when Hughes was coming to the end of his in the early 1980s but, even then, was taken by the enthusiasm the former England international had for the game.

"Anybody who has been a legend in the game, it's always a sad loss, but I think at 57 years old it's a bit of a shock to everybody," said McClaren.

"He still had that same enthusiasm in those days at Hull, who at the time had been looking for experienced players to come in.

"I was young then, but he was regarded as leader and used his experience. It's always great when you have legends like that come to your club when you're a young player, and it's like here now where we've established players and the youngsters can look up to them."

McClaren is to use a number of his young players against Liverpool, many of whom have come to prominence this season, such as Stewart Downing, Tony McMahon and James Morrison.

The Boro manager is determined to recapture a trophy they won at the end of February with a 2-1 defeat of Bolton.

"We're desperate to retain the trophy and we've definitely got a chance to do it," he said.

Boro have no fresh injury worries to contend with, although he is still without Gaizka Mendieta, Ugo Ehiogu, Michael Reiziger, Szilard Nemeth and Malcolm Christie.

McClaren welcomed Bryan Robson back to football management after his appointment as the new manager of West Bromich Albion following Gary Megson's departure last month. Robson's first match in charge will be against his former club at The Hawthorns on Sunday.

McClaren was yesterday quick to praise Robson for his achievements at the Riverside as he said: "It's good to have him back in the game. He did a fantastic job here and everything you see has been built by him and Steve Gibson over seven years.

"He did some great work, left some great people here and we've tried to carry that on."

The Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has decided not to risk Milan Baros tonight. Instead the Czech Republic striker will rest as he recovers from a hamstring injury.

Neil Mellor and Florent Sinama-Pongolle are likely to be paired up front as Benitez gives a number of fringe players as well as reserves a run-out. Xabi Alonso, Luis Garcia and Dietmar Hamann are all rested for the fourth-round match.