Ahead of a Europa League last-32 second-leg tie with Unirea Urziceni, Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has been light-heartedly batting off none-too-subtle interrogations by attributing a slightly larger waistline to the stress of answering questions from a ruthless press pack.

But the Reds boss will know only too well that the long-running inquisition into his side’s disappointing season would reach a new level of rigour should the unthinkable happen in Romania on Thursday at the Steaua Stadium, the selected venue as Unirea’s 7,000 capacity does not meet Uefa regulations.

The Spaniard saw the funny side, but he may be considering a gastric band if David Ngog’s first-leg header in the 81st minute at Anfield last week is overturned and questions return to his club’s misfiring performances, off-field wrangles and his personal future.

It would appear a tricky night awaits Liverpool against their hosts, the Romanian title holders and fellow Champions League drop-outs, after a far-from-convincing display in the opening encounter when a one-goal win was really all the Premier League side warranted, despite dominating possession.

Unirea packed 10 players into a defensive wall on Merseyside to make life difficult for their more-illustrious opponents and were happy with a narrow defeat, however, Roni Levi’s men will have to attack in the return meeting and that will prove decisive as to whether the tie is won or lost.

A bonus for Liverpool, who have improved defensively, but are struggling for goals, is that they will have star striker Fernando Torres available as the Spain international has been included for the trip after making his comeback from knee surgery in last weekend’s stalemate at top-four rivals Manchester City.

Midfielder Yossi Benayoun may also feature after coming back from a broken rib, but defender Glen Johnson will not return to training until the end of the week and is still a doubt for Sunday’s league meeting with Blackburn.

Steven Gerrard will captain his side amid continuing murmurs that he is not 100 per cent fit, and he is also set for a role as skipper of England against Egypt in the wake of Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand’s latest injury.

Winger Maxi Rodriguez is cup-tied after already playing in Europe this season with former club Atletico Madrid, so Albert Riera, a losing Uefa Cup finalist with Espanyol in 2007, is likely to start, despite an off-colour outing against Unirea at Anfield.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos is currently serving a domestic suspension, but is available for Thursday’s match and is expected to feature alongside Torres and Benayoun on the bench.

Unirea will be without Argentinian defender Pablo Brandan, arguably their best player, as his booking in the first leg rules him out with suspension.

Kammy praises Everton’s comeback against Man Utd and has a gripe about offside goals.

Read the article on Sky Sports

Unirea v Liverpool preview

Ahead of a Europa League last-32 second-leg tie with Unirea Urziceni, Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has been light-heartedly batting off none-too-subtle interrogations by attributing a slightly larger waistline to the stress of answering questions from a ruthless press pack.

But the Reds boss will know only too well that the long-running inquisition into his side’s disappointing season would reach a new level of rigour should the unthinkable happen in Romania on Thursday at the Steaua Stadium, the selected venue as Unirea’s 7,000 capacity does not meet Uefa regulations.

The Spaniard saw the funny side, but he may be considering a gastric band if David Ngog’s first-leg header in the 81st minute at Anfield last week is overturned and questions return to his club’s misfiring performances, off-field wrangles and his personal future.

It would appear a tricky night awaits Liverpool against their hosts, the Romanian title holders and fellow Champions League drop-outs, after a far-from-convincing display in the opening encounter when a one-goal win was really all the Premier League side warranted, despite dominating possession.

Unirea packed 10 players into a defensive wall on Merseyside to make life difficult for their more-illustrious opponents and were happy with a narrow defeat, however, Roni Levi’s men will have to attack in the return meeting and that will prove decisive as to whether the tie is won or lost.

A bonus for Liverpool, who have improved defensively, but are struggling for goals, is that they will have star striker Fernando Torres available as the Spain international has been included for the trip after making his comeback from knee surgery in last weekend’s stalemate at top-four rivals Manchester City.

Midfielder Yossi Benayoun may also feature after coming back from a broken rib, but defender Glen Johnson will not return to training until the end of the week and is still a doubt for Sunday’s league meeting with Blackburn.

Steven Gerrard will captain his side amid continuing murmurs that he is not 100 per cent fit, and he is also set for a role as skipper of England against Egypt in the wake of Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand’s latest injury.

Winger Maxi Rodriguez is cup-tied after already playing in Europe this season with former club Atletico Madrid, so Albert Riera, a losing Uefa Cup finalist with Espanyol in 2007, is likely to start, despite an off-colour outing against Unirea at Anfield.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos is currently serving a domestic suspension, but is available for Thursday’s match and is expected to feature alongside Torres and Benayoun on the bench.

Unirea will be without Argentinian defender Pablo Brandan, arguably their best player, as his booking in the first leg rules him out with suspension.

Kammy praises Everton’s comeback against Man Utd and has a gripe about offside goals.

Read the article on Sky Sports

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