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Wednesday 05 December 2012

Europa League: Villas-Boas keeps faith with Friedel

Previews of Newcastle, Tottenham and Liverpool's final UEFA Europa League group matches

  • Spurs and Panathinaikos drew 1-1 when the two teams met in Athens

  • Daniel Agger is bullish of Liverpool progressing past Udinese

  • After scoring against Wigan in the Barclays Premier League Gael Bigirimana will face Bordeaux

The three Barclays Premier League teams competing in the UEFA Europa League have their final group stage matches on Thursday evening with only Newcastle United's fate assured.

Andre Villas-Boas looks set to hand Brad Friedel his first Tottenham Hotspur start in almost a month against Panathinaikos at White Hart Lane. Spurs need to avoid defeat to ensure progress from Group J.

"Rotation of goalkeepers has not been because of performances"
Andre Villas-Boas

Hugo Lloris has started in goal for the last five matches but Friedel, who was reported to have been the subject of a bid by Blackburn Rovers to become their player-coach, will be given a chance against the Greeks in the Europa League clash.

"Brad has been excellent, I spoke to him and he has been such an important player for us," Villas-Boas said. "Rotation has not been because of performances.

"Both goalkeepers' performances have been excellent. It gives me the ability at any time to throw a different 'keeper into the game.

"I don't know anything about [Blackburn's bid]. We are trying to hold on to our best assets and Brad is certainly one of them."

The contest has come too soon for long-term injury victims Scott Parker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto, but they could return for next weekend's Barclays Premier League match against Swansea City.

"They have both been out for some time but we have to be sensible with the situation," added Villas-Boas. "Parker is an amazing player and it is a big boost for us."

Gareth Bale, who suffered a hamstring injury at Fulham, is out of Sunday's league match at Everton but should return for the match against Swansea. Younes Kaboul (knee) also remains sidelined.

Provisional squad: Cudicini, Friedel, Naughton, Walker, Caulker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Livermore, Huddlestone, Sigurdsson, Lennon, Mason, Sandro, Dembele, Carroll, Townsend, Dempsey, Defoe, Adebayor.

Suarez to be given rare European trip

Striker Luis Suarez is set to start his first Europa League match away from home for Liverpool in their final Group A fixture against Udinese.

"We are brave on the ball, we want to go forward"
Daniel Agger

The Uruguay international is suspended for Sunday's trip to West Ham United, which means there is no need to rest him, so will lead the line as the team looks to secure qualification for the last 32 but captain Steven Gerrard has been left behind due to illness.

Liverpool face an Udinese side who are eliminated and Brendan Rodgers’s team are looking to stay ahead of Young Boys, who play at home to Anzhi Makhachkala, of Russia. Liverpool and Young Boys are level on seven points from five games but the English club have the edge on the Swiss team by virtue of a better head-to-head record.

Defender Daniel Agger, who scored Liverpool's winner in the 1-0 weekend Barclays Premier League victory over Southampton, is upbeat about their prospects in Italy.

"Confidence is a big thing here and we have it," Agger said. "We are brave on the ball, we want to go forward. We aren't just playing it around.

"That's a big difference from last season. There is more control and we are creating more chances than last season."

Other senior first-team players who have travelled include goalkeeper Jose Reina, defenders Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel and forwards Raheem Sterling and Suso.

Provisional squad: Reina, Jones, Johnson, Enrique, Sahin, Suarez, Cole, Assaidi, Henderson, Coates, Downing, Carragher, Allen, Suso, Sterling, Shelvey, Coady, Skrtel, Wisdom.

Pardew takes young squad to Bordeaux

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has picked a youthful squad to take to France to play a Bordeaux team, who, like their opponents, have qualified for the last 32 from Gourp D.

Youngsters Conor Newton and Yven Moyo were among a 20-man squad who have been delayed by snow at Newcastle Airport.

Midfielders Newton, 21, and 20-year-old Moyo have yet to make a senior appearance for the club, and have been included along with Gael Bigirimana, Mehdi Abeid and Adam Campbell as manager Alan Pardew uses the depth of his squad.

Senior striker Shola Ameobi is available after recovering from a groin injury and he was joined on the plane, which was delayed by snow, by goalkeeper Tim Krul, defenders Danny Simpson, Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson and frontman Papiss Cisse. But there were no places for injured trio Davide Santon (groin), Cheick Tiote and Demba Ba (both hamstring).

Squad: Krul, Elliot, Simpson, Ferguson, Tavernier, Coloccini, Williamson, Perch, Anita, Bigirimana, Marveaux, Sammy Ameobi, Amalfitano, Abeid, Newton, Moyo, Cisse, Shola Ameobi, Campbell, Ranger.

Europa League fixtures

6pm kick-offs

Group A
Udinese v Liverpool
Young Boys v Anzhi Makhachkala

Group D
Bordeaux v Newcastle United
Maritimo v Club Brugge

8.05pm kick-offs

Group J
Maribor v Lazio
Tottenham Hotspur v Panathinaikos

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Key Points

  • Tottenham Hotspur need to avoid defeat agianst Panathinaikos to progress to last 32 of Europa League
  • Liverpool could secure qualification by beating Udinese
  • Newcastle taking a young squad to Bordeaux having already qualified