By Dave Lyons
ANDY CARROLL’S Anfield future looks bleak after he was left behind for Liverpool’s Europa League trip to Belarus.
Brendan Rodgers, who will take charge of his first competitive game for the Reds tonight, insists the qualifier against minnows FC Gomel is vital.
And although club officials insist the striker’s late withdrawal was due to a slight groin strain, Carroll’s omission, given the interest show by Newcastle and West Ham, has clearly edged him closer to the exit door.
Rookie strikers Adam Morgan and Nathan Eccleston were included in the squad but Alberto Aquilani and Daniel Agger also stayed on Merseyside.
Aquilani is the subject of interest from Fiorentina, while Agger has not trained because of an injury and was left behind as a precaution.
Gomel are Liverpool’s first-ever opponents from Belarus but a lack of hotels means staff and players will be split into different accommodation.
And boss Rodgers said: “Maybe over the history of the club, this will not be one of the most glamorous games but, for me, it will mean everything.
“Taking a team into Europe, one that has conquered Europe for many years, and to go in there and compete is everything for me.
“This club has so much history. For me, and the players, the competition won’t be taken lightly.
“Of course, it is difficult because it is still pre-season and I will still have to be careful with the players I play.
“But, at the same time, I believe we have got enough good players here to get through these early rounds.
“Hopefully, come the Christmas period, we will have qualified and we can put it to bed until February.
“We have to make sure the players are fit enough to do well in it.”