Europa League Preview: Liverpool - Unirea Urziceni

Reds looking to get back on track in Europe...
Kick-off: Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 20:05 GMT
Anfield, Merseyside

Liverpool recommence their European campaign this week with a home clash against fellow Champions League dropouts Unirea Urziceni.

The Reds failed to make their way out of a group containing Fiorentina, Olympique Lyonnais and Hungarian underdogs Debrecen in the continent's blue-ribbon competition.

Thus, they now find themselves competing in the inaugural edition of the Europa League, although it remains to be seen exactly how much of a fight the men from Merseyside will put up.

Liverpool won the UEFA Cup three times, their last triumph coming in their treble-winning season of 2000-01, while manager Rafael Benitez claimed the trophy during his highly successful reign at Valencia.

However, with his side locked in a tight tussle for a top-four finish in the Premier League, it is expected that the Spanish tactician will prioritise domestic duties over Europe's second-tier tournament.

Nevertheless, the Anfield giants will head into this encounter as clear favourites, although Unirea proved in the Champions League that they are no easy beats.

The Romanian outfit were just a point shy of Stuttgart in Group G, and their victories over Rangers (2008 UEFA Cup finalists) and Sevilla (2006 and 2007 UEFA Cup winners) showed that they know how to handle themselves against seasoned opposition.

Unirea return from the winter break with Roni Levy at the helm, Dan Petrescu having quit the club to take up a post in Russia. The new gaffer has met both Liverpool and Benitez in European play as boss of Maccabi Haifa.



Feb 10: Arsenal 1-0 Liverpool (Premier League)
Feb 6: Liverpool 1-0 Everton (Premier League)
Jan 30: Liverpool 2-0 Bolton Wanderers (Premier League)
Jan 26: Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-0 Liverpool (Premier League)
Jan 20: Liverpool 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League)

Unirea Urziceni

Dec 12: Unirea 2-0 Iasi (Romanian League)
Dec 9: Stuttgart 3-1 Unirea (Champions League)
Dec 4: Ceahlaul 2-3 Unirea (Romanian League)
Nov 30: Unirea 2-0 Gloria (Romanian League)
Nov 24: Unirea 1-0 Sevilla (Champions League)



Key attackers Fernando Torres (knee) and Yossi Benayoun (broken rib) are back in training but will not make the squad, while Jamie Carragher has been passed fit after limping out of last week's loss to Arsenal with a groin complaint. Star full-back Glen Johnson remains sidelined with knee trouble.

Last starting XI (vs. Arsenal): Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Insua, Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt, Gerrard, Maxi, Ngog.

Unirea Urziceni

Levy's main concern is keeping his team intact for the return leg, as Iulian Apostol, Marius Bolasco, Pablo Brandan, George Galamaz and Ricardo Vilana are all one booking away from suspension.

Last starting XI (vs. Iasi): Arlauskis, Nicu, Maftei, Fernandes, Brandan, Semedo, Paduretu, Paraschiv, Frunza, Rusescu, Bilasco.


Liverpool - Dani Pacheco

The Barcelona youth product is one of many fringe dwellers expected to get a run throughout the course of this tie. Regarded by some as the most technically gifted player in the entire Liverpool squad, this is a kid all Kopites should keep an eye on.

Unirea Urziceni - Marius Bilasco

The 28-year-old was Unirea's star man in the Champions League group stage, putting in fine displays against Rangers and Stuttgart. Capable of playing both up top and on the flank, he is the sort of player who can exploit any lapses from a Liverpool side who may be more worried about this weekend's clash with Manchester City.


Liverpool 1-0 Unirea Urziceni