Liverpool face Dutch outfit Utrecht in the Europa League tonight, in what may be considered as a rather meaningless game for the Anfield side. The Reds, who are unbeaten in Europe this season, have topped their group and qualified for the knockout stages of the tournament, therefore Roy Hodgson will be able to use this game to give his youngsters another shot at proving their worth, whilst allowing other first-team players to build up their fitness.
But, given Liverpool’s struggles in the Premier League this season, Hodgson’s pre-match press conference was dominated by questions about his future. The former Fulham boss, who guided the Cottagers to the Europa League final last season, appeared to be quite annoyed that focus was on domestic issues rather than on Europe. Interestingly, Hodgson feels that he is doing the best job he can given the current resources and he said that whoever took his place would be doing a similar job with similar players unless there was a major inflow of cash into the club.
In response to owner John Henry’s comments on Monday night that Liverpool’s results had been ‘unacceptable’
He added: “I’m expecting the next few games to go better. I’m expecting to see the team climb the table. I’ve seen what the owners said and they spoke very well – considering it was a phone in, they did very well.” The Englishman also reiterated the fact that the owners were in it for the long run and understood things cannot be turned around overnight.
As for the game itself, Hodgson will want Liverpool to give it their all and look for a win, just to get confidence back up following defeat against Newcastle last time out. The fact that Fernando Torres is likely to be risked indicates that Hodgson wants to give his star forward an opportunity to hit top form. An appearance from Joe Cole is also on the cards, whilst youngster Jonjo Shelvey, who also spoke at the press conference, will play against Utrecht.
Meanwhile, skipper Steven Gerrard will be ‘touch and go’ for the game against Fulham at the weekend. The Reds midfielder, who injured himself on international duty last month, is in line for a return soon and his comeback will boost confidence at Anfield. Following the Utrecht game, Liverpool face Fulham, Blackpool, Wolves, Bolton and Blackburn, in a run of games from which the Reds should be looking to take plenty of points. With those fixtures coming up, this could be a vital period of the season for Liverpool, who could push themselves towards a Champions League spot with positive results this month.