By Christopher Boulay
Liverpool heads home to Anfield for the first time this season for the second leg of its Europa League third qualifying round tie with Belarussian club F.C. Gomel. With a 1-0 advantage, the club will look to turn the page on what would be Brendan Rodgers’ first success at the helm of the club.
A win will put the Reds into the Europa League play-off round and only 180 minutes from the group stage. Anything less than a victory will be devastating for the club and fans, alike, as it is of utmost importance to see the club get back into European competition after a one-year absence. However, advancing to the next round is far from a certainty, as Gomel more than held its own during the first leg.
The club will need a strong 90 minutes in order to pull off the victory, and the fact that Rodgers will have a nearly full-strength squad at his disposal will help. Luis Suarez could make his first appearance since May, as he recently returned from international duty at the Olympics. Suarez, who on Tuesday received a contract extension from the club, may get to pair with Fabio Borini up front, giving the two some chance to gel before the Premier League campaign starts in a little over a week.
Pepe Reina also may feature for the club for the first time since last campaign, as he has returned from his extended holiday.
Liverpool won’t have any significant injury concerns, as the only major worry was Joe Cole’s early substitution during the first leg. However, Rodgers confirmed after that match the injury was only minor, and the substitution was precautionary. Lucas may also play a key role in the match, which would be his second competitive fixture since his knee injury early last season. He appeared for the club during the preseason friendlies in July, as well as during the first leg of this tie in a substitute’s role.
The players may not have a significant amount of rest after this match, as the club hosts Sami Hyypia’s Bayer Leverkusen squad in the final friendly of the season on August 12.
Liverpool v Gomel
When: Thursday, August 9, 1505 EST/2005 GMT
Where: Anfield, Liverpool
League Position 2011-12: Liverpool eighth in EPL 2011-12 (52 points), Gomel third in Belarussian Premier League 2011 (54 points)
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