Rafa looks to test out his options ahead of Fiorentina clash…and Alberto Aquilani gets to start!
Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani is set for his full Liverpool debut in Wednesday’s clash with Fiorentina.
Striker Fernando Torres returns from a groin injury but starts on the bench, while goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri comes in for the rested Jose Reina.
With the Reds not making the knockout stages, boss Rafael Benitez is likely to give his fringe players some action.
Dirk Kuyt could sit out and reserve striker Daniel Pacheco could be involved at some stage of the match.
It will be a welcome start for Aquilani, who signed from Roma in the off-season for £20m, but has made only three late substitute appearances since October because of an ankle injury.
“We decided we couldn’t take any risks with him. It wouldn’t have been good for him or us,” Benitez said about the delay to starting his midfielder in the first team.
“We will take care of him and he will be ready. We wanted to protect him and give him the best opportunity to play well. Hopefully Wednesday will be the day.”
Fiorentina have already progressed to the knockout stages, along with Lyon, leaving the five-time European champions competing in the Europa League.
“It is easy to see in training that he has got quality on the ball and we hope he is going to help us,” Lucas said.
“People will make comparisons but he is a different player to Xabi. He is more attacking and we can all see that he is going to play in a more advanced role.
“Obviously he came to replace Xabi but he is going to need some time to settle and we will do everything to make that happen quickly.”
Spanish star Torres will be returning for the first time since 4 November after recovering from a groin problem.
Liverpool (from): Cavalieri, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Insua, Aquilani, Lucas, Mascherano, Gerrard, Riera, Ngog, Riera, Benayoun, Aurelio, Darby, Spearing, Kelly, Pacheco, Agger. (BBC Sport)
So Alberto Aquilani will finally get his Liverpool debut and the fact that he does so in a relatively meaningless game is both confusing and worrying. If Rafa valued the Italian enough to fork out a large sum of money on a player who had a long term injury, one has to wonder why he has had the Italian warming the bench when he was apparently fully fit whilst we struggled on the field of play, but enough of that lets just hope he performs well and this game might give some squad players a chance to show Benitez what they have to offer.
Fiorentina will be firing on all cylinders as they look to finish the group in first place so tonight’s game may not be such a pointless affair after all. We are now unbeaten in six and whilst we haven’t exactly been playing well I guess we are currently in that place where we need to fight ourselves into a rhythm so even more reason to try and get something from the game.
My Prediction: 2-1 to Liverpool