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Liverpool missing Owen

Published: Tuesday 19 March 2002, 10.00CET
Liverpool FC striker Michael Owen has failed a fitness test for tonight's tie against AS Roma.

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Published: Tuesday 19 March 2002, 10.00CET

Liverpool missing Owen

Liverpool FC striker Michael Owen has failed a fitness test for tonight's tie against AS Roma.

Liverpool FC's hopes that European Footballer of the Year Michael Owen would be fit to face AS Roma in their decisive UEFA Champions League tie at Anfield have been dashed. On a night when nothing less than victory will do for the English club, the Merseysiders will be without Owen, who has failed to recover from a hamstring problem.

Entire nation
For Roma, a draw will secure their passage to the quarter-finals. The leaders in Serie A will be carrying the weight of an entire nation on their shoulders. If they were to go out, Italy would be left without a representative in the last eight of the competition for the second season in succession - hardly the sort of achievement to encourage the national team in a FIFA World Cup year.

All four teams
That Liverpool have even a semblance of a chance is all due to their backs-to-the-wall performance at the Camp Nou last week when they managed to frustrate FC Barcelona in a goalless draw. That coupled with another draw in Rome between Fabio Capello's side and Galatasaray SK has been responsible for this fantastic climax in Group B, where all four teams have a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Owen loss
The loss of Owen is all the more keenly felt because Nicolas Anelka, his usual replacement in the FA Premiership, is ineligible for the Champions League. Not that Liverpool are short on quality strikers: Jari Litmanen and Emile Heskey should now lead the Liverpool attack, with much expected of them given Liverpool need to win to progress.

'Decent chance'
Liverpool's assistant manager, Phil Thompson, had said: "We will make a decision at the last minute after talking with the physios and with Michael. I think beating Roma could be the making of this team." While Owen is absent, one man not missing at Anfield tonight is Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier who attends his first match since recovering from heart surgery in October.

Hamann suspended
Of the two sides, Roma certainly seem to be in the better shape, physically as well as positional-wise. Liverpool also have Dietmar Hamann suspended, whereas Roma have defenders Vincent Candela, Walter Samuel and Aldair all fit again and Francesco Totti, their captain, expected to recover from a minor injury. The only notable absentee from the Roma team is the Brazilian Cafu, who is suspended after picking up a caution in last week's ill-disciplined game against Galatasaray. Cafu scored Roma's equaliser in the game, but in Vincenzo Montella they have a striker bang in form. He scored two against Atalanta BC in Roma's 3-1 win at the weekend, making it six in two games.

'Hard game'
"It will be tough, but I think we will do it," said Capello. "It's going to be a very hard game and difficult for both sides. Liverpool are a side with great character. Their style of play may or may not be pleasing on the eye, but they're still a great side. The fans may be disappointed about the type of football, but when they see Liverpool win so many cups they must think that maybe this is the key to a return to winning ways."

Defeat last season
The Roma coach was clearly thinking of Liverpool's performance in Barcelona last week, when, for the second season running, they appeared to be playing for a draw in the Catalan capital. It is also the second consecutive season that Liverpool have played Roma and they will be only too aware that they lost 1-0 to the Italians at Anfield in last season's UEFA Cup.

'Great boost'
Liverpool, of course, eventually got past the Italian club to win that competition and they will be particularly keen to win now for manager Gérard Houllier, who has just recently return to the club after heart surgery. "We all know how much doing well in Europe means to him," said Danny Murphy, who is expected to take over from Hamann in central midfield. "Just having him in and around the training ground has been a great boost to us and it would be brilliant to progress, not just for the club, ourselves and the fans, but for him especially."

Last updated: 16/11/12 7.32CET