Liverpool hit new low in Europa League draw as they face a trip to Macedonia or Armenia

17 July 2010 12:38
They may be renowned for their pioneering exploits across the continent, but Liverpool won't be relishing their latest groundbreaking venture after Friday's Europa League draw.

The club, whose stirring deeds from Rome to Istanbul have made them a household name, might normally be savouring the prospect of another enticing Champions League campaign.

Oh dear: Following a season to forget for club and country, Steven Gerrard's first task upon his pre-season return is to steer Liverpool safely through a Europa League qualifier

But finishing seventh in the Barclays Premier League last season cost them their place among the elite, and there was a sharp reminder of their fall from grace after they were handed a third qualifying round encounter with Macedonia's Rabotnicki or Armenian runners-up Mika.

Liverpool have never before played a tie in either country, and even their own website billed it as a 'trip into the unknown' as they tried to shed light on the two minnows barring the five-times European champions' path to the competition proper.

Rabotnicki, who wear the same all-red kit as Liverpool, hold an advantage over the Armenians after a goal by striker Wandeir, of six Brazilians in their squad, gave them a 1-0 lead for the return leg next Thursday.

CELTIC GIVEN TOUGH TEST Champions LeagueThird qualifying round

Braga (Por) v CelticAIK (Swe) or Jeunesse (Lux) v Linfield or Rosenborg (Nor)Bohemians or The New Saints vAnderlecht (Bel)(1st legs July 27 or 28;2nd legs Aug 3 or 4)

As they prepare to welcome Rabotnicki to their 8,000-capacity stadium, Mika, whose squad is dominated by Armenians but contains two former RealMadrid youth players in Pedro Lopez and Ulises Cano, will hardly be encouraged by a record of one European win in eight attempts.

Rabotnicki, whose Philip II Arena holds 36,000, are familiar to Liverpool coach Sammy Lee after he recorded a 2-1 aggregate win over them as Bolton manager in the 2007-08 UEFA Cup.

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson may lean on him for an insight into the Macedonians after admitting his side face going into the tie under-prepared.

'Rabotnicki are in Europe every year, but I don't know much about Mika, though I know Armenia after going there as Finland manager,' he said. 'We are in for two tough games, whoever it is against, and we must try to compile as much information about our opponents as we can.'

But will he be flying? World Cup winner Fernando Torres might be even more desperate for a transfer when he sees the draw

Hodgson reiterated his optimism over keeping Steven Gerrard at Anfield and revealed he had held initial discussions with Fernando Torres. 'Steven is not for sale and I made that clear to him in a very positive meeting,' he said. 'We want to build our team round players like Steven.

'Clubs can get into players' ears and make promises. It destabilises them and we can't help that, but he understands our position.

'I have met Fernando. I found him to be a very pleasant man. He is a Liverpool player, and we want him to remain one. He is not for sale, and we would not welcome any offers for him.

'It was only a short conversation, because I had to leave for the training camp in Switzerland, but we spoke about football, the World Cup and his injury. I told him how much I was looking forward to working with him.

'Christian Purslow (managing director) was also there and he chatted with Fernando a lot longer after I left. My chat with him was only about football.'.

 Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson cold-shouldered by wantaway Javier MascheranoRoy Hodgson insists Fernando Torres is not for sale after meeting with Liverpool strikerRabotnicki or Mika. who are they? Exactly! Liverpool discover potential Europa League opponentsHodgson: We're working hard to keep Torres, Gerrard and MascheranoLIVERPOOL FC

Source: Daily_Mail