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Internationals Preview: The Ninth Circle of Mid-Week Friendlies

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International friendlies: For when you're in the mood to nervously watch your club's players in meaningless games where the best prize to be won is not getting injured. If you're the sort to put national loyalties ahead of club, then a few of today's games arguably serve the purpose of keeping teammates familiar as the summer's European Championships approach—though even that seems a stretch when most on display won't be participating in that or any other summer tournament. So with that in mind, here's to every Liverpool player ending the day having won the aforementioned best prize…


Romania v. Uruguay 1:30EST/6:30GMT

Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates have both been called up for Uruguay's trip to Bucharest as part of a full-strength side including the likes of one time member of Liverpool fans' wish lists Diego Forlan and current member Edinson Cavani. Romania finished third in their Euros 2012 qualifying group behind Bosnia and Herzegovina, and as such wouldn't be expected to put up much of a fight against the Copa America champions. So Liverpool fans can watch while crossing their fingers they'll see a few more of the Uruguayan players in red next season while hoping that the ones currently in red come back in one piece.

Turkey v. Slovakia 1:30EST/6:30GMT

In a match between two sides that just missed heading to the Euros, Martin Skrtel and Slovakia will be in Istanbul for some reason or other. Probably something to do with making somebody at FIFA, UEFA, or one of the involved federations a few extra pounds, marks, or yen. Assuming he makes it through the game fit, about the best thing Skrtel could take away from the trip would likely be a visit to the Blue Mosque. Both because it's one of the world's most stunning pieces of architecture and also because the game he'll be playing in is completely meaningless.

Denmark v. Russia 1:45EST/6:45GMT

Daniel Agger has withdrawn from the Danish side that will face Russia due to a possible cracked rib. It hasn't been confirmed by the club yet, but if it's the same sort of injury he suffered in the fall and not simply a muscle strain or something else less serious he can be expected to miss between three and six weeks of action. No matter what it turns out to be, though, it's unlikely to be a case of him having re-aggravated the old injury, as if he has indeed suffered a second cracked rib this season it is more likely to be a different one than before.

Switzerland v. Argentina 2:30EST/7:30GMT

Maxi, Maxi Rodriguez, run round the Stade de Suisse for me. Or something. He'll likely find himself starting on the bench when Argentina visit Bern to play the Swiss today, though that he would even be included to that degree is a bit of a surprise for the player who has found himself on Liverpool's bench more often than not this season and hasn't been called up to the national team since the 2010 World Cup. And if he does as expected end up stuck on the bench then he could always sneak out at the half to visit Bern's bear pit. Because Bern has a pit with bears in it in the middle of the city, and that's pretty damn cool.

Slovenia v. Scotland 2:45EST/7:45GMT

Charlie Adam is expected to start for Scotland when they face fellow Euro 2012 non-qualifiers Slovenia in Koper. On paper it's one of the less thrilling matches of a rather thrill-free Wednesday of friendlies on the final day of February. Which means it'll probably end up being be a game for the ages where Adam puts on a world class performance that makes fans forget his stinker at Wembley on Sunday. Or it'll just be dull and he won't.

Wales v. Costa Rica 2:45EST/7:45GMT

After starting on the bench against Cardiff on the weekend, Craig Bellamy and his knees will captain Wales in their life or death struggle to top storied rivals Costa Rica in a hugely meaningful match. Except that everything after "will captain Wales" is the opposite. In other news, Craig Bellamy will start on the bench against Arsenal on Saturday.

More seriously, though, despite that the game itself matters little and could prove frustrating for Liverpool fans worried about the push to finish in the top four, it's likely to be hugely meaningful for Bellamy as it will serve as the memorial game for Gary Speed. Moreover, it has been speculated that with Wales set to miss out on the upcoming Euros it could mark the 32-year-old's final international match. Put those together with the fact that Bellamy will be captaining the side in Aaron Ramsey's absence and it becomes a lot harder to turn your nose up at, even if it is a poorly scheduled and entirely meaningless game for two nations without a competitive tournament on the horizon.

England v. Netherlands 2:45EST/7:45GMT

Glen Johnson has withdrawn from the English national team after training with them on Tuesday, though by all accounts his injury is minor and the decision to miss today's game is largely precautionary. Stewart Downing, Steven Gerrard, and Steven Gerrard's groin, however, are all expected to play in Stuart Pearce's first game sort of in charge as temporary manager of the English national team. Pearce has yet to reveal who will captain the side with John Terry stripped of the captaincy, though the favourites are Gerrard and Tottenham's Scott Parker. And no matter who the captain is, it's expected that Pearce will approach the senior match against the Netherlands similar to the way he did pretty much any opponent with the u21 side he previously managed, and as such there will be lots of good old fashioned route one football to make the Glory of '66 brigade happy.

Meanwhile for the Dutch, after finding himself benched in favour of Jordan Henderson on Sunday against Cardiff, it's likely Dirk Kuyt will get the call to start once again at the international level. Seeing as Henderson wasn't called up to for England, the transitive properties of the equation suggest the Netherlands don't stand a chance in the day's prestige friendly unless they can reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.

Spain v. Venezuela 3:30EST/8:30GMT

Pepe Reina won't start. For those still interested in schadenfreude Fernando Torres definitely won't start, either, since he was left out of the squad entirely. And for those interested in reading tea leaves ahead of the Euros, it's a chance to gauge how a Spanish side without either the misfiring Torres or the injured David Villa sets up in attack.

As usual, if your local provider isn't giving you the match you want you should be able to find a stream at a site like First Row Sports, Wiziwig, or ATDHE, and also as usual we'll probably be keeping half an eye on one game or another over on the Liverpool Offside Twitter. So, you know, try to enjoy the games. A few of them might even end up being slightly better than no football at all.