Liverpool appear to be ready to release as many as four players in January, with Ryan Babel, Andrea Dossena, Andrei Voronin and Philipp Degen among those who may leave as part of the club’s attempts to lower the wage bill.
Rafael Benitez’s injury-ravaged squad was skeletal for the 1-1 draw in Lyons which leaves the club’s Champions League future hanging by a thread when they venture to play Debrecen of Hungary in Budapest next week.
Benitez, however, appears resigned to players leaving, with money tight and the prospect of the club losing another £10m by failing to progress to the Champions League group stage now a real one.
Babel, who seemed to have scored a winner in Lyons before Argentine striker Lissandro Lopez equalised, indicated in pre-season that he needed first team football to force his way into Holland’s World Cup plans and suggested he would contemplate a loan move to Ajax, the club which found and developed him.
He has started only two Premier League games this season and still is not developing in the way Benitez had hope when he beat a number of other European sides to his signature in the summer of 2007
“To be a supersub is mentally hard,” Babel said this week. “It is clear I have enough qualities to be in the starting XI of Liverpool.”
Andrei Voronin, a player Benitez only kept in the summer because he knew the money raised would not be reinvested into his transfer kitty, is also dispensable.
Though Hertha Berlin, for whom he flourished on-loan last season, could not afford him this summer, most Bundesliga clubs would probably relish his proven ability at German league level.
A loan move to Italy appears to be most likely for Dossena while Degen’s defensive qualities have not matched his ambition as a right wing back.
The manager’s options may be limited, if he sees youth players coming in to replace those who might leave. Lauri Dalla Valle — the Finnish player who was integral to Liverpool’s run to the FA Youth Cup final — and Nathan Ecclestone are both understood to feel they may be ready to move on to further their careers.
Benitez, meanwhile, is confident of having Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger fit to face Manchester City on Saturday lunchtime.
Fernando Torres, undergoing three weeks’ rest on the orders of Spanish clinicians, will not be available to face Mark Hughes’ side.
Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera, originally ruled out until early December with hamstring injuries sustained against Birmingham City, may be back sooner than expected.
Gerrard is confident of facing City following a nagging groin injury.
The England midfielder could start after coming off the bench in the draw with Birmingham.
Gerrard said: “I felt very tired after the game as I wasn't really ready to return. I'd done very little training in the three weeks beforehand. It took me two or three days to recover from that game, but I have spent the past week doing strengthening work.”
Gerrard is anxious to help Liverpool reignite their campaign.
“Some of the lowest points in my career have come about when I have had to miss big games for Liverpool and England through injury,” he said.
“It's never easy when you have to sit out games against Manchester United or trips away from home in the Champions League.
“If the lads are winning games and doing well, it makes the pain a bit easier so obviously the last couple of weeks have been extra frustrating.”