Liverpool FC welcome back top scorer Michael Owen for their UEFA Champions League second group stage match against Galatasaray SK at Anfield tonight.
Owen has recovered from the knee injury he suffered in the 6-0 FA Premiership victory over Ipswich Town FC eleven days ago and takes his place up front alongside Emile Heskey. Assistant manager Phil Thompson gives a European debut to 20-year-old goalkeeper Chris Kirkland following a groin injury to Polish international Jerzy Dudek. New recruit Abel Xavier starts in place of Stephen Wright at left-back.
Despite home advantage, Thompson is not underestimating the threat posed by Galatasaray. "A win would undoubtedly be a tremendous boost for us," he said. "That will be extremely tough though because Galatasaray deserve great respect due to their greater experience of Champions League football. They have played in this format regularly and this season they had some great results in the first phase. I'm under no illusions how difficult the game will be, but we are in fine form at the moment and that gives us great heart."
Galatasaray will be without Capone and Hakan Ünsal, both sent off in their 2-2 Champions League draw at FC Barcelona in December. Coach Mircea Lucescu has to plan around out-of-form strikers and a midfield hit by the absence of injured playmaker Sergen Yalçin. Lucescu perseveres with striker Ümit Karan, despite a dearth of goals in recent matches. Berkant Göktan provides support behind him. Colombian defender Gustavo Victoria replaces Hakan Ünsal.
Galatasaray had four players sent off in their defeat by local rivals Fenerbahçe SK on Saturday and Lucescu believes this will give their opponents the upper hand tonight. "That is a big advantage to Liverpool," he said. "We arrived in England tired after what happened on the weekend, but Liverpool have had no game for eleven days and have been able to prepare well. It will be difficult without key players, Sergen is world class and it is a shame that people will not be able to see that here. But I can assure everyone that the players we do put on the field will be doing everything to win."
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