Draw is brief distraction for Hodgson
iverpool will discover their Europa League third qualifying round opponents on Friday as speculation continues to surround their star players. The Reds may be without Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano for their qualifier at the end of this month but manager Roy Hodgson is determined to make sure that situation does not become permanent. Over the past six months both players have hinted, in different ways, that their futures could possibly lie elsewhere. Torres has spoken of the need to bring in four or five quality players, while the Argentina captain has stalled on signing a new contract while his agent talks up the chances of a reunion with former Reds boss Rafael Benitez at Inter Milan. Leave after World Cup duty means Mascherano and compatriot Maxi Rodriguez do not come back to training until four days before the first leg of the third qualifying round, with Liverpool discovering their opponents in Friday's draw in Nyon. The Spain contingent of Torres and Reina return as world champions - along with beaten Holland finalists Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel - but not until after the first leg has been played. Torres, in any case, has been ruled out for three to four weeks after tearing an adductor muscle in the World Cup final. It will leave Hodgson with a weakened squad for his first competitive match in charge but that is not what is currently concerning the 62-year-old. Torres, Mascherano and captain Steven Gerrard have been the main subjects for transfer speculation and the Liverpool manager is determined to secure their commitment for his first season in charge at Anfield. "We are working very hard on making certain the players we have at the club who you would call the 'good players' are going to be with us for next season," said the Englishman. "The board are working very hard in that area. Some players are a bit disenchanted after what happened last season and we want to make sure we get that enchantment back." Hodgson is trying to strengthen the squad, having welcomed new signing Milan Jovanovic to their Switzerland training camp, but is amazed at the list of names being touted as potential targets. "I'm very pleased we have got Milan. He looks a very keen and enthusiastic player and it's good to have players who are desperate to play for the club," said the manager. "I was not responsible for signing him (that was Benitez) but I was pleased to hear the club had taken the initiative to get a player like him. "He's a natural wide player who can play through the middle. He's more of an attacking winger than a wide midfielder and he's a goalscorer. "He scores goals for club and country and I'm sure we'll get a lot of use out of him. "We are looking to add to and improve the squad, but I prefer not to talk or say what we are doing until we have something concrete to announce. "We are being linked with players left, right and centre and it amuses me that we are sometimes linked with players we haven't even heard of. "I have great faith in the Liverpool public that they will see through the snippets of information they may read, take it with a pinch of salt and wait for an official announcement." New head of sports science and sports medicine Peter Brukner has been keeping a watchful eye over pre-season training since leaving his post with Australia after the World Cup. He is looking forward to increasing the focus while they are away in Switzerland, although admittedly the majority of the first team will not start coming back until next week. The England contingent of Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Glen Johnson, Denmark's Daniel Agger and Slovakia's Martin Skrtel will all return to individual programmes at Melwood while the squad are still overseas. "We've been back training for 13 days now so our plans are well underway," he said. "But there's no doubt that going away with the squad for 10 days gives us a chance to work with them closely. "We're also looking forward to having our World Cup players back, but first of all it is important they are all given three weeks off. "In three weeks they won't lose too much fitness, but they'll get a chance to get refreshed mentally, and that's important. "Some of the players haven't had a break for two or three seasons so they will benefit from this rest and then be ready to go again."
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