Football

Liverpool Vs Wigan Athletic, Wed 16 Dec 2009

Mascherano set to retain place (©PAphotos)
Mascherano set to retain place (©PAphotos).

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano is likely to be fit to face Wigan at Anfield in the Barclays Premier League.

The Argentina captain sustained a thigh problem which forced him off in Sunday's defeat at home to Arsenal but he trained today and is expected to retain his place in the starting line-up.

Right-back Glen Johnson, also substituted against the Gunners, spent today with the physiotherapists and did not train. He is more of a doubt.

Winger Albert Riera still has a hamstring problem so will not be risked while #20million summer signing Alberto Aquilani is likely to find himself on the bench again.

Manager Rafael Benitez will continue to shoulder the burden of criticism for his faltering Liverpool team as he has absolute faith in the methods which he expects his players to follow.

Sunday's defeat to Arsenal, having taken a first-half lead, was their sixth of the season and left them five points adrift of the Champions League places.

However, Benitez is prepared to "guarantee" that the club will finish in the top four this season as he believes only minor changes need to be made.

"I think it is very important for any manager, but especially here in England, to be strong," he said. "You have to show you have an idea, you have your own people that you can talk with and analyse things and say `This is the way to do things' and we have to keep going.

"The main thing for me is to come here early in the morning, do my job, go home still working a little bit and try to be ready for the next day.

"That is the way to do things and that is an example for the players - and they are doing the same thing."

Hendry Thomas is set to return as Wigan look to heap more pressure on Liverpool by registering their first win at Anfield.

The Honduran missed Saturday's draw at Stoke through suspension but is expected to be restored to the starting line-up, with Jordi Gomez standing down.

Former Liverpool keeper Chris Kirkland suffered no reaction to his recent back injury at the Britannia Stadium and will face the club he made 25 appearances for in a five-year stay.

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez has tipped Kirkland to be England's World Cup keeper.

It may seem like an outlandish suggestion given Kirkland has only represented his country once, as a substitute against Greece in August 2006.

But with doubts surrounding all his other keepers, Capello might be forced to look at potential alternatives.

And, on the eve of his return to Liverpool, Kirkland has been given top billing by his club boss.

"Chris would be the perfect choice," said Martinez. "He has proved beyond question that he is one of the best English goalkeepers and is now in the best form of his career.

"People may say it is not realistic but I disagree. When you look at the options Fabio Capello has got, Chris is as good as anybody."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Topics:
Chris Kirkland
European News
Football
Glen Johnson
Hendry Thomas
Premier League
UEFA Champions League
Jordi Gomez

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