Liverpool and Fulham now carry the banner for England on the continent. What a strange sentence.
Johnson Carragher Kyrgiakos Agger
Kuyt Gerrard Benayoun
Bench: Cavalieri, Aquilani, Ngog, Degen, El Zhar, Ayala, Pacheco
Ruben Amorim Luisao Sidnei David Luiz
Carlos Martins Ramires, Aimar
Di Maria Cardozo
Bench: Moreira, Airton, Maxi Pereira, Fabio Coentrao, Felipe Menezes, Alan Kardec, Eder Luis
In the run-up:
Sort of a strangely slow news day, other than the news about the new home kit being released and assertions that the Premier League is still the finest in Europe despite the Champions League woes. Regarding the latter, it seems like Liverpool were just drastically ahead of the curve, recognizing that it was a bad year for England in the Champions League and making the decision to pack up their stuff and take it to the Europa League. That Rafa, always thinking.
And this piece regarding Rafa has been making the rounds since early yesterday morning, in which he admits that there's been a few occasions on which things didn't go to plan. Shame that it's such a big deal when someone in charge actually owns up to this sort of thing. During such a down year, one of the enduring positives has been Rafa's positive outlook on how things can finish (even if it involves misguided guarantees). And even when he's discussing "big" mistakes, he manages to include his belief that Liverpool can still wrap up the campaign on a high note. This is, of course, ignored the veiled references he makes to the failures of other, the criticism of Alberto Aquilani, and his decision to substitute Fernando Torres, which is now becoming the most discussed substitution in recent memory.
Also, just because it was brought up in the comments section of a previous post, Martin Kelly is recovering from surgery after a knee injury picked up in a reserves match and can only feature today if he's using bionic legs. Sadly, I think the Europa League lacks a policy on robotics. Thanks to Rosco for reminding everyone; I think his presence (Kelly's, not Rosco's) would have alleviated the concerns that Rafa will have in selection (which, incidentally, he seems to be wallowing in), but I don't know that he would have found himself in the starting eleven even if fit.
And even though it's probably futile in a season that's had Wayne Rooney do no less than make the blind see and cure leprosy (what, the Daily Mail told me so), cast a vote for Fernando Torres in the PFA Fan's Player of the year poll. Despite missing an extended spell due to injury, Torres has 18 goals in league and is rightly considered one of the world's best. And while he's been overly petulant at times, he's one of the bright spots (along with Pepe Reina) on the season. Also, visit the link for the chuckle you'll get from seeing Robinho as one of the players in the background image. Sometimes life is tough.