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Sep 30, 2010

Hodgson not prioritising Europa League

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has insisted that his focus is not on the Europa League this season after his side's poor start to the Premier League campaign and early exit from the Carling Cup.

• Preview: FC Utrecht v Liverpool
• Torres ready for Utrecht

Hodgson came in for criticism for playing a weakened side against Northampton Town in the Carling Cup last week, which resulted in Liverpool tumbling out of the competition on penalties at Anfield to a side three divisions below them.

Liverpool face what is on paper a far tougher test against FC Utrecht who, although they are 12th in the Eredivisie table, have a 100% home record in the league this season and beat Celtic 4-0 in the Europa League qualifier at Nieuw Galgewaard.

With the FA Cup and the Europa League the only competitions which Liverpool can hope to challenge for this season, Hodgson insisted he will not be playing for success in Europe ahead of the Premier League.

"Our priorities have been to do the best in every competition,'' he said. "Although these days I will be accused of not doing that because people will say the team I played against Northampton was not the team to win the game.

"There certainly is not the gloom [at the club] that you would like to suggest. But at the same time I can't say everyone is delighted with the start we have had because we are not. We would have liked to have been sitting near the top of the table with 12 or 14 points and we would have been happy as sand-boys. That's what we wanted but you don't always get what you want.''

Hodgson, who said on Wednesday he had not decided whether to give striker Fernando Torres his first Europa League start against Utrecht, is looking for the victory which will take his side two-thirds of the way to qualification for the knockout stage. Steven Gerrard will definitely be rested and he has not travelled to the Netherlands..

"We saw Utrecht beat Celtic 4-0 so we are under no illusions that we are playing a very good team and we will have to be very good if we are to get a result from the game,'' he said. "Nine or 10 points is probably my guess (of what is required to progress) but don't put any money on it because I'm not very good at predicting these things.''

Hodgson denied having an interest in Utrecht striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel. He added: "He is doing very well with Utrecht but I would be lying if I said we seriously considered signing him. There was no question of him coming this summer. You've hit me with a name that I didn't know we were linked with."

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