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Rupert Wyman 16th Feb 2011 - 15:53

This Portuguese lad is the Raul deal

Sparta Prague have the distraction of being embroiled in a major national row concerning the whereabouts of some of their Czech Under-21 players last week.

They withdrew their strikers Kadlec and Pekhart from Under-21 duty but they still played for Sparta in a friendly in Spain but dressed in other first team players' kits.

The manager is desperate to maintain the squad's match fitness as they have not played a competitive match since drawing 1-1 with CSKA Moscow in their final Europa League group game in December.

They have recently played some friendlies in Dubai but they are up against a Liverpool side that has improved rapidly since the Europa League group stages.  Dalglish has taken over from the new West Brom manager Roy Hodgson and Torres has departed for a bigger club Chelsea.

Liverpool will see the Europa League as a realistic chance of getting silverware and if they do win Europe's second cup, it now looks likely that they will be able to defend it next season whilst playing Premier League football. It was only a few months ago, that the prospect of Championship football looked realistic.

Liverpool are Even money to win away from home and they should be better prepared than Sparta Prague, as they are used to the intensity of the Premier League. Sparta will be well rested but they have not played in their national league since February.

Steven Gerrard has definitely been left in Liverpool due to his on-going problem with his groin. Joe Cole has recovered from his knee injury and he will be desperate to impress Kenny. He cannot be accused of trying but again he has spent most of a season on the sidelines. He is 9/4 to score anytime.

The Even money for Liverpool may be too short, they are unlikely to play all their first team and the squad lacks the depth of the other sides in Europe, like Tottenham and Man City. The Match Winner is Liverpool to win to nil and if you look at Sparta Prague's form in their Europa League group, this looks unlikely.

Sparta scored twelve goals but conceded the same number in their group. With Liverpool playing counter-attacking football and Sparta strong at home, it could be a goal-fest. The 11/10 for over 2.5 goals looks tempting and it is 19/20 for both teams to score.

Liverpool are without their new strikers Suarez and the injured Carroll, so they must rely on Ngog and Kuyt.  Raul Meireles looks Hodgson's best signing still at the club and he is 7/1 to score the first goal should he start after overcoming a virus. He regularly shoots from distance and he is in a rich vein of form.

Liverpool have included a 16-yearold in their squad, Raheem Sterling could become the youngest ever Liverpool player if he makes an appearance. He is 7/1 to score the last goal in the match and he scored five goals in the 9-0 FA Youth Cup thrashing of Southend, earlier this week.

Liverpool should have too much for Sparta but it is difficult to name their starting eleven and they have not been punter friendly. If they put out a strong side, I would definitely take the Even money if it is still available.



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