(AFP) - Liverpool's build-up to Thursday's Europa League tie with FK Rabotnicki at Anfield has been overshadowed by questions about the club's ownership.
Liverpool will be expected to confirm their passage into the next stage in front of their own fans after two goals from David Ngog ensured them a comfortable victory in the first leg of the round three qualifier in Macedonia.
But the return leg is being staged against a backdrop of high level discussions about expected boardroom changes at the club in the coming weeks.
Chinese businessman Kenny Huang has indicated that he is willing to take on the 237 million pound debt from creditors Royal Bank of Scotland which would then enable him to negotiate a takeover deal from American co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks.
Those two, who have become increasingly derided during their near-disastrous three-year tenure at Anfield, will make the decision alongside the remainder of Liverpool's board, guided by chairman Martin Broughton, who has indicated that Huang's is one of several deals being considered.
"It still remains the objective to conclude a deal before the end of the transfer window," Broughton said.
"That remains the objective but there are no deadlines, and we will continue working to complete the process.
"Both George Gillett and Tom Hicks remain on the board and they have given commitments that the board of Kop Holdings (Liverpool's UK parent company) is the party that is responsible for the sale."
Liverpool did, though, receive a huge boost on Tuesday when Spanish international striker Fernando Torres pledged his future to the club.
The striker - who had amiserable World Cup on a personal level - returned to training on Monday following Spain's World Cup victory but is unlikely to feature against the Macedonian side as he recovers from a hamstring problem picked up during the World Cup final.
Torres ending the speculation about his future means the club's fans - already buoyed by the signing of former Chelsea winger Joe Cole - will have genuine optimism that they can succeed this season on all fronts.
Torres decision to stay comes on the back of their talismanic captain Steven Gerrard also agreeing to remain which pleased fellow Liverpudlian and vice-captain Jamie Carragher no end.
"For me he's (Gerrard) probably the best player in the history of the club, alongside Kenny Dalglish, so it's obviously going to give everyone a massive lift that Gerrard has decided to stay," said Carragher.
Carragher is also happy with the way that Cole has quickly settled into the Liverpool squad.
"He's not taken too long to settle in and he knows quite a lot of the lads from England," he added.
"He's a good lad too and he's staying right in the centre of Liverpool, so a lot of the fans have seen him around.
"He loves playing here and being at Liverpool.
"You like people to get involved with the city and he's doing that from an early stage."
The first leg was marred by alleged racist taunts from a small section of the Rabotnicki supporters who were disappointed that their players, including the impressive Martin Boginatov in goal and captain Nikola Gligorov, failed to stun the football world by beating the five-times European Cup holders.
UEFA claim to be aware of the chants emanating from the home side's fans and have pledged to investigate further once this tie is over.
Manager Zoran Stratev has no outstanding injury concerns ahead of the contest and is likely to pick the same side that lost last Thursday.
Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson - who guided Fulham to the final of the competition last season - played a mainly second-string side for that encounter and is likely to adopt a similar approach again although Gerrard and Cole are set to feature at some point.
|Coach: R. Hodgson|
for S. Gerrard 62'
for M. Jovanović 67'
for Lucas Leiva 73'
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