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Rupert Wyman 15th Sep 2010 - 9:31

Liverpool to walk through the storm

Liverpool kick off the Europa League group stages with an Anfield clash against Steaua Bucharest, hoping to improve on an indifferent start to their campaign so far.

The Reds were fortunate to get a point at Birmingham on Sunday with the side coming in for widespread criticism for their performance from fans and pundits. Pepe Reina pulled off a number of fine saves to secure a 0-0 draw.

Fernando Torres took most of the flak, his performance was described by Sky Pundit Jamie Redknapp as "diabolical".

Torres is a class act and what Redknapp doesn't take into account is Torres' obvious lack of match fitness and that the fact that the service he received on the day was very poor. He is returning after a knee injury at the end of last season and a groin problem suffered in the World Cup final and is sure to come good once he is fully fit.

It is not clear, however, if he will be played in this one. Roy Hodgson rested him for both qualifying games against Trabzonspor and Ngog could be set to deputise once more, especially with Sunday's game against Man United on the horizon.

Torres is 9/4 to score first, as always with our first goalscorer bets if your selection doesn't play in the game (or comes on after the first goal) you receive your stake money back, so there is no risk in backing a player who is not sure to take part.

Liverpool have struggled for goals this season and we've enhanced their odds on them failing to score once again, it's a special price of 6/1.

The two sides have met once before in European competition during a UEFA Cup tie in 2003-04.

After a 1-1 first-leg draw in Romania, in which Djimi Traore struck his first and only Reds goal, Harry Kewell settled the tie with the winner in the return leg at Anfield.

Roy Hodgson will have fond memories of this competition having guided Fulham to last season's final, a feat that helped him land the Liverpool job. He also led Inter Milan to the final back in 1997 losing on penalties so he has the tactical know how to take a team far.

Whether he will repeat that with Liverpool could come down to how they prioritise the UEFA Cup in relation to their league campaign. This competition could prove to be one of Liverpool's better chances of success and silverware this season and a good run is sure to boost morale amongst their beleaguered supporters.

Hodgson will know this and I expect him to play a strong team for this game and Liverpool should have too much for their Romanian visitors. Steaua could well park the bus though so don't expect many goals or an open game.

Steau came through the qualifying round on penalties against Grasshoppers in a low scoring tie. After taking the first leg 1-0, they travelled to Zurich and lost by the same score, holding on throughout extra time to take the game to a shoot out.

In the league they have scored just once in their last two games, losing to Unirea last time out.

My selection for this one would be Liverpool to win 2-0 (5/1) and under 2.5 Goals (Evens). I think it may take a little while for Liverpool to make the breakthrough so a bet on the Draw at half time and Liverpool to go on to win in our double result market at 11/4 also looks good value.

The game kicks off at 19:30 on Thursday and is live on Channel Five.


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