The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Liverpool play safe with Owen
- UEFA CUP l England striker left at home for treatment of ankle injury

Paris: Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, with one eye on their Manchester United fixture, gambled by leaving Michael Owen at home for Thursday’s Uefa Cup tie at Steau Bucharest.

Liverpool, buoyed by their 2-1 victory at Fulham on Sunday, have left England striker Owen at home for treatment on an ankle as injury concerns continue to plague his season.

Last month, a shin injury meant Owen missed their last Uefa Cup match against Slovenians Olimpija Ljubljana and England’s Euro 2004 fixture against Turkey in Istanbul.

Houllier said he was not prepared to take any risks with Owen in this second round, first-leg fixture with their Anfield battle against Manchester United this weekend.

“Michael is feeling his ankle a little bit and so I’m not going to take him to Romania,” Houllier told the club’s website. “We have a big game coming up at the weekend against Manchester United and so there’s no way I’m going to take any risks with him.

“Obviously not having Michael with us isn’t good news for the team but we have to be careful with him and not gamble with his fitness.”

Jamie Carragher, Milan Baros and Bruno Cheyrou are also injured and have not made the trip to the Romanian capital.

Better news for Houllier was the performance of France’s Florent Sinama Pongolle in recent matches.

Substitute Pongolle had done his bet to tempt Zak Knight into the foul which earned the winning spot-kick from Danny Murphy with a minute to go against Fulham.

“Our fans have taken to Florent, probably because he has similar qualities to Michael Owen,” said Houllier.

“Florent has lightning pace and can make and score goals. I have no doubt he would have gone on and scored from that position if he wasn’t fouled for the penalty. He causes defenders problems.

“Flo is becoming our supersub. But he’s not the finished article by far. He has to learn more about movement, positioning and linking with other players, but I am very pleased with him.”

Newcastle United’s French defender Olivier Bernard said they would be pouring forward looking for goals against Swiss side FC Basel after losing 1-2 to West Bromwich Albion and only drawing 1-1 with Aston Villa in their last two games.

Newcastle beat Breda 5-0 in the first round, first leg at St James Park which meant the pressure was off for the return in The Netherlands.

Bernard told the club website: “I don’t really think it will make much difference to us playing the away leg first this time around,” Bernard said.

“We know our strengths going forward, and we expect to score goals in every match we play in — and this one on Thursday will be no different.

“We won’t be going over there playing for a draw or anything like that. We will approach the game by wanting to win it. If we can get a good result in Basel then we will be looking to finish the job off at home in the second leg.”

Manchester City host Polish side Groclin on Thursday fresh from their 2-0 Premiership win at Southampton on Saturday.

Robbie Fowler, with only two league goals in 21 games since signing for City in January, put the Blues ahead four minutes in and Costa Rican Paulo Wanchope’s drive killed off the home side with five minutes left.

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