Dunn doubtful for Reds clash

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David Dunn could miss out again for Blackburn when they host Liverpool in the Barclays Premier League.

Dunn did not play in Rovers' Carling Cup triumph over Chelsea on Wednesday after picking up a calf problem in the previous match against Stoke, and his involvement will be subject to a late fitness check.

Keith Andrews is also nursing a calf injury but is more likely to be available for selection.

Manager Sam Allardyce returned to work on Friday after undergoing heart surgery and is likely to watch the game from the stands at Ewood Park, with assistant Neil McDonald continuing in the dugout.

McDonald is adamant Rovers will not suffer from a post-cup tie hangover.

Rovers go into the match having sealed a place in the Carling Cup semi-finals on Wednesday with a dramatic victory against Chelsea.

Liverpool will be hoping that, after playing out a thrilling 3-3 draw over the course of 120 minutes and enduring the knife-edge tension of spot-kicks, Blackburn's players will be both physically and mentally fatigued for tomorrow's match at Ewood Park.

But McDonald is confident the squad are ready for their second encounter with a `big four' side in four days though and is expecting a similar performance.

"Preparations have been really good," McDonald said.

"They have rested, eaten, rehydrated. They have had plenty of massage, had a little bit of the ball, and we will do a lot of work in the video room on Liverpool's strengths and weaknesses.

"They are fine - they know how to recover and they are very fit. I think they showed that in the really strong way they finished off the game against Stoke the Saturday before.

"They then competed against a top-four team in Chelsea and were excellent over the course of 120 minutes, so I wouldn't expect anything less than a good, strong-running performance - as well as a good football performance - on Saturday."

Although on paper it looks demanding, McDonald claims he was pleased to see another big side to come to Ewood immediately after Chelsea as it will ensure the players retained their focus.

"It is probably better that we are playing Liverpool after a great experience during the week, because we have to be on our guard," McDonald said.

"If we are not, they will punish us and the players know that. It is a huge game whenever Liverpool are in town there is always a big crowd and a fantastic atmosphere.

"That makes the players work that little bit harder, concentrate more and play even better football."

Liverpool have decided against risking Fernando Torres.

The Spanish striker has been involved in three first-team training sessions this week, but there are still concerns over his groin problem. Boss Rafael Benitez is now thinking of playing his top scorer against Fiorentina in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Italian Alberto Aquilani will again be amongst the substitutes, while Ryan Babel is still out with an ankle injury.

Benitez has hailed Steven Gerrard's contribution to Liverpool's past and believes his captain can play another 200 games at the top level for the Anfield club.

Gerrard will become only the 13th Liverpool player to reach the 500 games tally for the club when he leads the team out on Saturday.

The Huyton-born midfielder, 30 next spring, will play at least another four years at the very top for his home-city club if he matches Benitez's assessment.

At Ewood Park he will once again be without his front-line colleague Torres. So again it is predominantly down to Gerrard to continue the rescue act to salvage Liverpool's erratic season and Benitez knows the England man can do it.

Benitez said: "When Stevie is on top form, Liverpool can beat anyone."

He added: "To reach 500 games for one club is remarkable. Usually good players don't stay with one club. Bigger clubs with more money tempt them away.

"He is certainly one of the very best players I have ever worked with.

"When I was at Real Madrid I worked with people like Raul and many other very good players who did very well in the first team.

"Like them, Stevie is known as a top-class player all around the world.

"He has won a lot already in his career, but if we can win even more trophies with him he will go down as one of the best players in history."

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Keith Andrews
European News
Stoke City
Ryan Babel
Blackburn Rovers
League Cup
Premier League
Fernando Torres
UEFA Champions League
David Dunn
Steven Gerrard

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