After a season without European football, Anfield hasn’t hosted a European night (aside from qualifiers, they don’t count!) since March 2011 – when Kenny Dalglish was still in temporary charge and FC Braga booted the Reds out with a 0-0 draw, after losing the away leg 1-0.
The Liverpool subs bench that night was: Gulacsi, Pacheco, Kyrgiakos, Poulsen, Flanagan, Spearing, Ngog.
It’s fair to say, we’ve come a long way since then.
The Europa League has provided one of the major positives to Brendan Rodgers’ opening months as Liverpool manager. The 5-3 defeat of Young Boys in Switzerland featuring a host of the Reds talented youngsters and providing plenty of optimism around the club.
With a strong Udinese side the vistors this evening, Rodgers may need to use a little more caution and give some more experienced players the nod for what promises to be a tougher test.
The Italians, who finished third in Serie A last season, have had a mixed start to their new campaign. After two defeats in their first two games, they’re unbeaten in the four since – although three of them have been drawn. Captain and dangerman Antonio Di Natale is currently topscorer with two.
“He’s [Di Natalie] a real clever player, he’s bright and he scores goals”, said Rodgers. “He’s a player we’ll have to pay attention to. I’m aware he hasn’t played in the last few games, but I’m sure that’s now been resolved and he’ll be playing.”
We have reason to like Udinese – and their chairman in particular, 71-year-old Giampaolo Pozzo. He sacked Roy Hodgson after just six months in charge back in 2001. In typical Hodgson style he was quoted in a newspaper describing the club as “extremely strange”. Old Roy denied the comments, then when sacked said he was happy to be sacked and wanted to leave. Sounds about right.
Back to tonight and Rodgers has a few key questions. Should he bring Brad Jones back in, or give Pepe Reina some extra match time. In midfield he will bring Jonjo Shelvey back in, alongside Jordan Henderson, but will he use Joe Allen too?
Ousamma Assaidi is likely to make his Anfield bow after an exciting performance on the left at West Brom last week, while Fabio Borini – who scored nine goals in Serie A last season – is also likely to start, looking for his first goal since the qualifier against Gomel in August.
Possible XI: Jones; Johnson, Carragher, Coates, Robinson; Shelvey, Henderson, Suso; Downing, Assaidi, Borini.
Kick off tonight is 8.05pm, live on ITV4 (UK).