Rafa set to ring the changes

April 4, 2008

Rafael Benitez could gamble on wholesale changes when Liverpool return to the Emirates Stadium tomorrow for the second of three clashes with Arsenal in seven days.

With Arsenal still in with a shout of the Premier League crown, the chances of Arsene Wenger making such dramatic changes for this league clash are less likely.

But Liverpool will have looked at the run-in that they and fifth-placed Everton have got and seen that the Toffees must also go to the Emirates and they also have to play Chelsea.

So with a five-point lead in the race for the final Champions League spot going into the weekend - and a far superior goal difference - Liverpool have more breathing space than Arsenal and therefore it is likely most of Liverpool's big guns will be left on the sidelines.

Fernando Torres, taken off in the final minutes of Wednesday's 1-1 Champions League draw, is highly unlikely to be risked again if only to make sure that he avoids injury ahead of Tuesday's semi-final second leg against the Gunners at Anfield.

And there is every chance that skipper Steven Gerrard, Sami Hyypia, Jamie Carragher, Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel could be rested for this one.

Benitez, who could play Peter Crouch and fit-again Andriy Voronin up front, said: 'I will need to think carefully about my team for the league match. Torres and Gerrard will need to be strong for the second leg, and Kuyt ran himself to a standstill on Wednesday.

'Some players recover in two or three days, others need four. Maybe we will need to change some players.

'The age may be the key. Fernando can recover in two days, but Sami could take five. We will have to wait and see.

'I am expecting to make changes, I cannot expect them to play three times like that in seven days, certainly with the very high tempo of the games.

'It is impossible to play these same players three times in a week. Impossible.'

Liverpool's fringe players could well find themselves thrown into this Emirates clash, with Alvaro Arbeloa, Steve Finnan, John Arne Riise, Crouch, Lucas, Voronin and Jermaine Pennant all in line for call-ups.

Suspended Javier Mascherano will obviously be out but it is debatable whether he would have played tomorrow even if the FA had not given him an extra two-game ban for the charge that followed the Argentinian's red card at Old Trafford.

Liverpool's priorities are also clear to Babel, who accepts he may be rested for the match.

'The boss will have to make decisions now on who to start and who to rest,' he said.

'It will be impossible to play with the same eleven in three games against Arsenal.

'I think, in this situation, rotation is maybe good.

'We flew back from London on Wednesday night after the match, and we will go back today. It's a hard few days, mentally difficult.

'On Thursday we had a light training session, and then we will rest and discuss tactics and how we will play in the league match.

'Rafa will have already seen the first game back a couple of times to tell us what we did good and bad. He will now tell us how we can do better.'