Hodgson couldn't imagine harder start
Roy Hodgson claims he could not have asked for a tougher start as Liverpool boss than Thursday's Europa League qualifier in Macedonia. Hodgson has travelled to Skopje to face FK Rabotnicki in his first competitive match in charge with a hugely inexperienced squad. Players such as the England quartet of Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, Jamie Carragher and Glen Johnson are not being risked because they only returned to training last week after the World Cup. Javier Mascherano and Maxi Rodriguez are also missing having come back even later while Fernando Torres, Jose Reina, Ryan Babel and Dirk Kuyt are still on holiday. Hodgson, who took Fulham to the final from the same stage last season, said: "I couldn't have envisaged at the start of my time with Liverpool a more difficult situation than the one I find myself in - coming to Skopje to play a third qualifying round game against a good opponent having really had very little time to work with the Liverpool first team, and not having as many as 10 senior first-team players. "So, it couldn't be more difficult. "Although I did it with Fulham, I think in World Cup years it is a tremendous burden on the senior teams from countries like England, Spain, Italy and Germany to have to play third qualifying round matches on July 29 when the players have not returned from their holidays until July 22 or 23. "Everybody knows that you can't bring people off the beach, give them three days' training and then throw them into a top-class competitive game." Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, David Ngog, Alberto Aquilani and new signing Milan Jovanovic make up a handful of senior players on duty. Lesser lights such as Diego Cavalieri, Stephen Darby, Martin Kelly and Jay Spearing are in contention to feature. Hodgson said: "I am hoping it will be a good game from us and we will be able to win it, but I am far from confident that is going to be the case because we know the value of the opposition and we know that with 13 players returning from the World Cup and most of them not here, this is not the Liverpool team that people will be watching throughout the season. "But I am still very optimistic the team we put out will be very competitive and will not let the club down." Hodgson feels the Europa League could have an important part to play in Liverpool's season but there was never any chance of throwing in a player like Gerrard at the Philip II Stadium. He said: "We were never close to that because they have only been training for four days. "It would have been folly to try to play 90 minutes' football in an important competition in difficult conditions with players who have only been training for four days. "We have pressed one or two players into service who were back one or two days earlier than that but in an ideal world we would not have used any of the players that played in the World Cup. "But, quite frankly, we are not in a strong enough position to do that." Hodgson does have experience of Rabotnicki in his camp as assistant manager Sammy Lee overcame them whilst in charge of Bolton three years ago. Yet, with that result one of the few highlights of Lee's ill-fated reign at the Reebok Stadium, Hodgson says his number two is not coming forward with great advice. Hodgson said: "He has erased his whole time as Bolton manager from his memory and I am very pleased he has done so! "He remembers the stadium looking very different from how it does today. "Bolton managed to get through the tie, with some difficulty, but he doesn't remember much about the game. "We know as much about them as you are able to find out in a week - that is when we knew we would be playing them. "We know we can expect a tough game against a team who, for them, this is a very important game. We know they will be doing their very best to beat us."
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