Thursday 22 November 2012

Europa League: Caulker relishing Klose test

Newcastle, Tottenham and Liverpool could all qualify for UEFA Europa League knockout stages

  • Spurs and Lazio drew 0-0 when the two teams met at White Hart Lane

  • Liverpool will be looking to repeat at Anfield their triumph over Young Boys in Berne

  • If Newcastle beat Maritimo, where they drew 0-0, they will go through

The three Barclays Premier League teams competing in the UEFA Europa League will all be hoping to secure qualification to the knockout stage of the competition when they take part in the fifth group stage matches on Thursday evening.

If Tottenham Hotspur beat Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico, they will leapfrog their Italian rivals to head Group J and should Maribor fail to win against Panathinaikos Andre Villas-Boas’s team's passage to the last 32 will be secured.

Defender Steven Caulker is looking forward to the chance to test himself against Lazio and Germany striker Miroslav Klose so that he can build on his debut England cap against Sweden this month.

"Every game in a Spurs shirt is a chance to prove myself at international level," Caulker said.  "Lazio have a German striker in Klose so I have a chance to prove myself again and get my place back in the England squad."

Caulker has overcome the knee injury that ruled him out of Saturday's north London derby defeat, while Mousa Dembele has travelled with the team to Rome after overcoming a hip injury but is unlikely to play.

Scott Parker (Achilles), Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Younes Kaboul (both knee) are out.

Rodgers seeks continued improvement

Liverpool are in a similar position where victory at home to Young Boys, coupled with the failure of Udinese to triumph over Anzhi Makhachkala would mean that they are through to the knockout stages of the competition they have won three times.

"We are starting to show improvement and there is a real spirit and unity among us all"
Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers’s side are unbeaten in seven Barclays Premier League matches and the Liverpool manager is feeling that his side are over their teething troubles in adjusting to a new way of working, although he accepts they are far from the finished article.

"Of course, in that short term you want success and you have to show there is improvement," he said. "We are starting to show improvement and there is a real spirit and unity among us all.

"If we can stay like that and go through the pain together we can get out the other side and restore Liverpool to where it should be.

"But it is difficult in the modern game. There will be pain along the way, at times we will take two or three steps forward and take another step back, but that is a part of the journey.

The Liverpool side to take on Young Boys will not be a second string like the team who lost to Anzhi in Moscow a fortnight ago, which means Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez could feature for some part.

Midfielder Lucas Leiva is still not fully fit from a thigh injury which has sidelined him since August and will play for the under-21s on Friday as part of his comeback.

Pardew seeks to restore home comforts

Newcastle United do not need results elsewhere to assure qualification should they beat Maritimo at St James’ Park.

But manager Alan Pardew is looking to overcome back-to-back home defeats in the Barclays Premier League and has insisted that the club owner Mike Ashley is aware of the strains European football is placing on his injury-hit squad.

"We have lost two home games and that's not acceptable for us"
Alan Pardew

"I have been very fortunate to have a squad that has remained pretty fit and healthy since I have been here, and we have not really had much down time," said Pardew. "We have had the odd result that didn't really go our way, but have rebounded very, very quickly.

"But this is the first time that we have lost a couple of games on the spin and we have lost so many players to injuries, and it's difficult. That's when you have to show your mettle and look to the squad and try to boost them and get a performance, and that's what me as a manager and my staff are trying to do."

Captain Fabricio Coloccini, Jonas Gutierrez and Papiss Cisse will be available after missing the defeat by Swansea City at the weekend, but Cheick Tiote is suspended and Yohan Cabaye is facing a spell on the sidelines as he prepares to have groin surgery.

"We have lost two home games and that's not acceptable for us,” Pardew said. “We need to make sure we win tomorrow, and it would also give us qualification, so it's a big night for us."

UEFA Europa League fixtures

Kick-offs all GMT

Group A
Liverpool v BSC Young Boys 8.05pm
Anji Makhachkala v Udinese 5pm

Group D
Newcastle United v Maritimo 8.05pm
Club Brugge v Bordeaux 8.05pm

Group J
Lazio v Tottenham Hotspur 6pm
Panathinaikos v Maribor 6pm

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Key Points

  • Tottenham Hotspur look to go top of group by beating Lazio in Rome
  • Liverpool could secure qualification to knockout stages by defeating Young Boys
  • Newcastle's fate in their own hands as they take on Maritimo