Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson expects the game against FK Rabotnicki to be very challenging with many first-team players still not available for selection.
Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, Jamie Carragher and Glen Johnson are all being rested on this occasion, with striker Fernando Torres yet to return to training (to be precise, he will return on Monday).
The Reds boss said:
“I couldn’t have envisaged at the start of my time with Liverpool a more difficult situation than the one I find myself in – coming to Skopje to play a third qualifying round game against a good opponent having really had very little time to work with the Liverpool first team, and not having as many as 10 senior first team players.”
“So, it couldn’t be more difficult.”
Hodgson, during the press conference, continued to sound his displeasure about the timing of the qualifiers. Such an important game cannot be played just weeks after the World Cup was the new manager’s concern.
“Although I did it with Fulham, I think in World Cup years it is a tremendous burden on the senior teams from countries like England, Spain, Italy and Germany to have to play third qualifying round matches on July 29 when the players have not returned from their holidays until July 22 or 23.”
“Everybody knows that you can’t bring people off the beach, give them three days’ training and then throw them into a top-class competitive game.”
Despite having selection headache, Hodgson believes in his team, and expects them to get the job done.
“I am hoping it will be a good game from us and we will be able to win it, but I am far from confident that is going to be the case because we know the value of the opposition and we know that with 13 players returning from the World Cup and most of them not here, this is not the Liverpool team that people will be watching throughout the season.”
“But I am still very optimistic the team we put out tomorrow will be very competitive and will not let the club down.”