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Rupert Wyman 17th Feb 2010 - 15:48

Unirea's night out

It is not a showpiece event, but on Thursday night, Anfield welcomes the Romanian Champions Unirea Urziceni.

Liverpool finished third in their Champions League group and were instantly installed by William Hill as the outright favourite at 11/2, to win the Europa League.

It is a short price if Rafael Benitez does not intend to pick his best eleven against Unirea.

Liverpool have a must win league game against Manchester City at Eastlands on Sunday, with fourth position and a place in next seasons Champions League at stake.

Unirea are also in the Europa League after finishing third in their Champions league group. In October last year, they came to Ibrox for a match against Rangers and completely outplayed them, winning 4-1.

At home, their other Champions League victory came against a weakened Sevilla, a tightly contested 1-0 affair.

I doubt they will be star struck at Anfield and act stunned by the famous Kop atmosphere, they will see this as another opportunity to advertise Romanian football on the world stage and a potential European shop window.

Unirea have continually proved their critics wrong, they won the Romanian league last year, breaking the Bucharest clubs stranglehold on Romanian football.

Despite their owner Dimitru Bucsaru investing huge sums of money, winning the title in only their third year playing top flight football was a great achievement.

Ronny Levy is the new manager of Unirea, and the Anfield match is his first as Unirea manager since Dan Petrescu's departure.

Liverpool vice-captain Carragher was forced off in the 1-0 defeat at Arsenal last week with tightness in his groin. He should be fit to start against Unirea. Benayoun has been out for a month after breaking a rib against Reading on January 13th and should play a part in the game.

Striker Torres and full-back Johnson are long term injury absentees and will play no part in the game.

New signing Maxi Rodriguez is cup-tied, having already represented Atletico Madrid in Europe, earlier this season.

Liverpool have lost three of their last four European home games, with only a 1-0 home win against Debrecini VSC breaking up a run of defeats that spans, Chelsea, Lyon and Fiorentina.

This tie concludes in Bucharest on the 25th February with the winner facing a difficult tie against either Lille or Fenerbahce.

It is an extremely difficult game to make a recommendation on any markets to consider because Liverpool may not play their best available eleven and Unirea will be an unknown quantity under their new manager.

I would back the half time draw at 13/10, Liverpool will probably go on to win this match but they may struggle to get a hold on the game in the first half and will not finish off Unirea until their Premier League class shines through, in the second half.

I would have a small flutter on Ryan Babel to score anytime at 6/5, he was almost sold for eleven million pounds to Birmingham during the winter transfer window but Benitez has kept faith with the raw player and he has enough talent to make a difference.



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