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Aug, 25, 2010

Liverpool's star trio miss Trabzonspor trip

Liverpool will be without captain Steven Gerrard, star striker Fernando Torres and Barcelona transfer target Javier Mascherano for their Europa League play-off second leg against Trabzonspor in Turkey on Thursday.

Gerrard has a back problem and Torres is rested following his injury problems, while manager Roy Hodgson has not included Mascherano due to his desire to leave the club.

Soccernet understands the Argentina captain was unwilling to play against Manchester City on Monday and, with Hodgson having admitted he was not in the right mental space to play at Eastlands, it appears his omission is down to the same cause for Thursday's game.

Liverpool legend John Aldridge told the Liverpool Echo he is not happy about Mascherano's actions.

"Javier Mascherano's refusal to face Manchester City on Monday night was selfish and unprofessional," he said. "I can understand his frustration because he's clearly desperate to move on but what he did was out of order and he let the club down badly.

"Mascherano needs to remember that when Liverpool signed him in 2007 his career was going nowhere. He can't expect the club to just drop the amount of cash they want for him so he can get away. I'm glad Roy Hodgson has stood his ground because you can't have players calling the shots.

"With the transfer window shutting next week I'm sure his agent advised him to refuse to play and cause havoc to try to force the club's hand. That's what happened in my time and it's still happening today."

Defender Daniel Agger (concussion) and Maxi Rodriguez (illness) are also missing from the squad which travels to Turkey with a 1-0 lead from the first leg.

"Steven Gerrard unfortunately has had a recurrence of the back problem which he gets from time to time," said Hodgson. "Hopefully it won't stop him playing on Sunday."

"With Fernando Torres we've made the decision that we don't wish to risk him three games in a row at this stage of the season with him having done so well to get back this quickly.

"Agger played in the game on Monday (the 3-0 defeat to Manchester City) which was to some extent against medical advice. He wanted to play but felt a bit sick after the game. That's mainly due to the concussion he suffered (against Arsenal), so it would be foolish for us to risk him.

"Maxi is sick. He's in bed at the moment with a bit of gastroenteritis, so he's out of the question."

Hodgson admits his side face a tough challenge against Trabzonspor after failing to put the match beyond reach at Anfield last week, with Joe Cole missing a penalty.

"We missed a golden opportunity to kill the game off at Anfield and now we've got it all to do," added the 62-year-old. "It's going to be a very tough ask for the players in a difficult place.

"They are one of the two or three best teams in Turkey at the moment and Turkish football is of a very high standard.

"Everyone who's been to Trabzon tells me it's a remarkably difficult place to play. They're a hostile and fanatic crowd and it's a difficult pitch. But if we come through it we'll come through it stronger."

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