Jerzy prepares to say goodbye

Liverpool travelled to Turkey yesterday for tonight's formality game against Galatasaray at the Ataturk Stadium with a few big names missing from the passenger list.

The club's Chairman and Chief Executive, David Moores and Rick Parry, stayed behind so that they could deal with the commencement of DIC's scrutiny of the Liverpool accounts. If that goes to plan, Liverpool will start the next phase of the Champions League under new ownership.

Liverpool are already through to the next phase having qualified with two games to spare, and having assured top spot in their last game. Tonight's game is meaningless for both sides, so Rafael Benitez has decided to rest some his big-name players too. Captain Steven Gerrard, defenders Sami Hyypia and Steve Finnan and goalkeeper Pepe Reina have all been given a much-needed break. In their places travel youngsters Danny Guthrie, Stephen Darby, Lee Peltier, Paul Anderson and David Martyn.

Reina's absence means that Jerzy Dudek gets a rare chance to play between the sticks, and it could be his last appearance for the club. Dudek was the hero in May 2005 when Liverpool won the Champions League against AC Milan, his antics in the penalty shoot-out never to be forgotten. After that though his career changed. Rafael Benitez bought Pepe Reina in a deal that had already been agreed before the final, and Dudek dropped back to the Reds number two. So when Rafa told him he'd be playing in place of Reina in this game he was delighted, especially given the venue: "Since I heard from the boss saying I will play, I've been thinking I should kiss the penalty spot, the grass and the post. I think every Liverpool player should do that. It will be a fantastic feeling for me to go back to Istanbul. We are playing for nothing, but it will mean a lot to me.

It will be a totally different atmosphere tonight but Jerzy isn't bothered: "I will always remember this stadium because it was so important for all of us who played that night. I'd love to play there every week. It will also mean a lot to all the supporters because all the memories will come back. When you're on the pitch, you're focused on what's happening and don't really think what it all means. I'm sure during the game it will be the same, but before it we will go through all those emotions again. I don't know if we'll ever see that kind of game again. It was crazy. I'm the luckiest goalkeeper in the world. In life you must take the opportunities to progress."

Some might have thought Dudek would be downhearted at how his career has changed since that glorious night, but he's actually just grateful for what he's achieved so far: "I will always consider myself a success because I've done what I wanted to do, which was to play football and achieve things. Playing for Liverpool was something I'd never imagined. I've done this, so I feel happy and lucky."

His friends have all wondered how he's been able to accept being Liverpool's substitute goalkeeper for the past two seasons, but he says that he has his reasons: "I have spoken to all my closest friends over the last two years and told them it was better for me to stay at Liverpool in order to keep the emotion, the memory and the fantastic achievement of that night. Of course, I still have to think about my future. For one year, this was okay, but now I'm at an age where I need to be playing." With that in mind he says he'll be having talks with the boss to decide what happens next: "After this game I will be speaking to Rafa Benitez about my future because I don't think I can stay in this situation for long. The most enjoyable part of this game is to play, not sit on the bench and watch. I want to be a professional football player, not a professional football supporter. In January we will have to decide because my contract is almost finished."

As for that night, a year-and-a-half ago, does he find himself playing it back all the time? "I never watch the full DVD of the final, but I've watched the penalties once. My father keeps asking me, how did you make those saves? I keep saying I don't know."

It would be ideal if Jerzy got a chance to bid farewell to the club in a game at Anfield, but that's looking increasingly unlikely, unless Rafa decides to choose him for the Arsenal league cup game in a fortnight. Istanbul is the next best thing.