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Europa League Draw, Hodgson on Gerrard and Torres, and a Deal for Insua?

Busy day of news at Liverpool ahead of the club's first friendly...

And it's got a bit of the usual here-and-there along with continued talk about the fate of the big names.

The first concerns the Europa League, where Liverpool will face either FK Rabotnicki or FC Mika on the 29th of July at Anfield, with the away leg scheduled for August 5th. It'll be the first real run-out for Roy Hodgson, and if you're like me (read: ignorant of things like dates and times) you just realized that July 29th is less than two weeks away. Meaningful matches this early in the season is a pretty sweet concept for Liverpool fans regardless of the fact that they're coming as a result of last season's relative failures. Obviously Liverpool will head into these matches as heavy favorites, but there's no telling what faces will be included in the squad.

Which is probably the case for tomorrow as well. The names in the 20-man squad were largely a hodgepodge of young talent and fringe first-teamers, so there's not any sense in trying to make any concrete predictions about the side that will face Al-Hilal. There's really no choice but to get extended looks at most of the younger players---most of the squad is youth and/or reserve team veterans. A "fully-fit" Alberto Aquilani is also a fascinating proposition, as is the debut of Jonjo Shelvey. Also worth watching to see if Albert Riera has fully jumped back on the sinking ship.

One player in the 20-man that we might not see tomorrow is Emiliano Insua, who's still the subject of talks regarding a move to Fiorentina. There's no official confirmation, and he's still with the squad in the Alps, but we've heard about this for quite some time now. I still don't get it---he's young, he's talented, and he had a solid season despite a few bumps. And even if Liverpool are bringing in a replacement straightaway, it still leaves the club with only one left back. Mind-boggling.

The news on Javier Mascherano is also a bit puzzling---he's not in the business of checking his cell phone, and as such Roy Hodgson hasn't had a chance to talk with him about his future. For his part, Hodgson doesn't appear too concerned, but given Masch's turbulent summers past, a bit of clarification is likely in order. But this is Liverpool, so nothing can be too cut-and-dried. Maybe Dennis Duffy, Beeper King, convinced Masch to buy a beeper while on holiday.

Hodgson also gave his thoughts on Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, and it seems like good news. Asserting that neither player is for sale is essentially what we've wanted, and now I suppose the only thing that remains is to hear from Gerrard and Torres themselves about their futures. To be honest, the more I read about it the more pathetic I feel. Waiting to hear if a player wants to stay with the club is bad enough, but as the season creeps closer it just gets more and more tiresome. I guess "get on board or f*ck off" doesn't really work with the top talent.

It looks like one of the only ways to watch the match tomorrow is through LFCTV unless there's streams lingering in shadowy corners of the internet, in which case I'll gladly share. If I'm able to find one it'll likely show up in the comments below or in a news round-up post tomorrow. Kickoff is scheduled for 18:00GMT, 1:00EST.

This doesn't signal the end of the distractions off the pitch, but at least the season is in sight, and we get our first look tomorrow.

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