With one eye on the second leg Champions League clash with Inter Milan in midweek Rafa was never likely to field a completely unchanged side for today’s home clash with Newcastle. The cynical actions of Mark Noble of West Ham who was lucky to get away with just a yellow for an off-the-ball strike at Mascherano means Rafa had at least one change forced on him.
In for Mascherano comes Brazilian youngster Lucas, and Ryan Babel and Dirk Kuyt are both rested, replaced by Yossi Benayoun and Jermaine Pennant. Torres is up front after two hat tricks in his last two home games.
Hyypia is again on the bench, Rafa giving Martin Skrtel another chance to impress alongside Jamie Carragher. Still no sign of Daniel Agger.
One-time Reds hero Michael Owen returns to Anfield for the second time as a Newcastle player, knowing he’ll get a mixed reception from fans who in some cases still feel betrayed at his decision to allow his contract to run down to the point where it had 10 months left to run, no doubt hoping for a Bosman a few months later, and his reported decision to not call Real’s bluff a year later to return to Anfield instead of joining Newcastle. Despite that Rafa has continued to show interest in the player on-and-off since. Many fans consider his contributions over his time at Anfield are enough to forgive his actions in the summers of 2004 and 2005.
Former Red Kevin Keegan is of course the Newcastle boss these days, in his second stint in the role.
|Jose Reina||25||13||Steve Harper|
|Alvaro Arbeloa||17||21||Habib Beye|
|Jamie Carragher||23||25||Abdoulaye Faye|
|Martin Skrtel||37||27||Steven Taylor|
|John Arne Riise||6||3||Sanchez Jose Enrique|
|Xabi Alonso||14||16||James Milner|
|Leiva Lucas||21||22||Nicky Butt|
|Jermaine Pennant||16||14||Charles N’Zogbia|
|Steven Gerrard||8||11||Damien Duff|
|Yossi Benayoun||11||10||Michael Owen|
|Fernando Torres||9||17||Alan Smith|
|Charles Itandje (GK)||30||34||Fraser Forster (GK)|
|Sami Hyypia||4||6||Claudio Cacapa|
|Peter Crouch||15||9||Obafemi Martins|
|Ryan Babel||19||39||Andrew Carroll|
Referee: Peter Walton
Kick-off: 3:00pm GMT