Liverpool play host to Aston Villa on Sunday and Rafa Benitez is set to hand Djibril Cisse his first start since breaking his leg last year. Cisse has made a number of appearances as a substitute in recent weeks. Cisse now gets the chance to prove to the Reds boss just how fit he is ahead of the Champions League Final in Istanbul ten days later.
Milan Baros outraged Liverpool staff and supporters with his latest set of public complaints earlier this week. Baros said he didn’t like being substituted so much, yet has only scored twice since November – and has been sent off too. These comments mean that if Cisse proves his fitness to Benitez on Sunday, he’s almost certain to be first choice striker in Istanbul.
Liverpool will want to win the game on Sunday, but the Liverpool boss wants to use the game to see how fit a number of players are: "The game against Aston Villa will give a lot of players who haven’t had a lot of football an opportunity," said the Spaniard.
Rafa gave a clear message to any of those players that are selected – play well and you could start in Turkey: "I will be able to compare the level of players ahead of the final. Cisse is one of those players. The competition for places will give me options. I want to have the best players for the final. If they play well against Aston Villa, they could play in the final."
Benitez will rest Luis Garcia and Steven Gerrard for Sunday’s game – both are suffering niggling injuries and are being rested as both a precaution and too give them more time to recover. Fernando Morientes – cup tied for the final – is doubtful for the game due to a thigh problem.
There could be a reward on Sunday for Jamie Carragher. Many people’s Reds player of the season, Carragher could be given the armband on Sunday in the place of Gerrard.