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By ESPN Staff

Benitez ready to welcome back Mascherano

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has confirmed midfielder Javier Mascherano will return for tomorrow's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

Benitez will welcome back the Argentina international from a one-match suspension which meant he missed Sunday's Merseyside derby victory after his sending off at Manchester United the previous week.

Mascherano, following his reaction to his sending-off at Old Trafford, faces a Football Association hearing on Friday and it is likely he will be banned again for the weekend's Premier League clash with the Gunners.

But Benitez has no doubt the player can cope with being drafted in and out of the side as the 23-year-old will be available for the Champions League second leg at Anfield on April 8.

'Javier will be available for the first leg, he will start the game,' said Benitez. 'He was playing well before the suspension and there is no doubt he will be important for us at Arsenal.'

Benitez revealed only long-term injury casualties Harry Kewell (groin) and Daniel Agger (foot) are not being considered for the Emirates showdown.

Either Alvaro Arbeloa or Fabio Aurelio will return to the defence after both were rested for the Merseyside derby.

'We wanted to protect one of them, but I will not make that decision public at the moment,' added the Reds boss.

Benitez has numerous options for his back four. He can return Jamie Carragher to central defence from right-back and bring in Steve Finnan or Arbeloa, with Aurelio pressing John Arne Riise for the left-back spot.

Further forward the front six virtually pick themselves with Xabi Alonso and Mascherano the holding players behind an attacking midfield trio of Ryan Babel, Dirk Kuyt and Steven Gerrard with Fernando Torres up front.