Match Preview: Marseille (h)

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Liverpool welcome French side Marseille to Anfield in their Champions League Group D encounter on Wednesday night (7:45pm kick off).

The Reds go into the game five points ahead of the Ligue 1 side, level with Atletico Madrid, and a victory will guarantee qualification for the knockout stages of the competition.

Rafa Benitez hopes to have captain Steven Gerrard back after he missed the disappointing draw with Fulham on Saturday, with Martin Skrtel and Philipp Degen the only players ruled out through injury.

Gerrard is expected to return after a groin injury he suffered in the win at Bolton which saw him miss England’s friendly last week. The Reds’ captain scored a late penalty in the last European outing as Liverpool saved a draw against Atletico Madrid to leave the two sides with identical records going into the last two group matches with 1-1 draws home and away.

Another midfielder expected to start is Xabi Alonso who was rested on Saturday somewhat controversially in favour of Lucas. That could mean Robbie Keane dropping to the bench with Gerrard behind Torres up front.

Benitez said of the partnership, so prolific last season, “Last season it was clear to see that the understanding between Torres and Gerrard was really good and there have been signs this year that it is getting better.”

“As a manager I don’t like to single out players but Gerrard and Torres have scored something like 54 goals between them since they began playing together, so it is clear that they are both very important to us.”

The match will be Benitez’s 66th European game in charge of Liverpool, taking him past Bill Shankly’s record of 65. The manager said “I’m very proud to be in this position, hopefully I’ll be in charge of Liverpool for another 65 or 66 games in Europe.

“I’m really pleased because it’s a really good achievement for anyone, but especially when you talk about a top club like Liverpool.

The corresponding fixture earlier in the group saw two Gerrard goals claim victory in Marseille as the Reds came from behind at the Stade Velodrome.

The French side have former Liverpool midfielder, and European Cup Winner, Bolo Zenden in their squad. The Dutchman said “They are a team in the top two in England. It’ll be very difficult, but we are not afraid.”

The match is live on Sky Sports (UK).

Liverpool squad: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Benayoun, Babel, Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano, Lucas, Torres, Kuyt, Keane, Riera, Cavalieri, El Zhar, Dossena, Spearing.

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