He has not begun a serious match for two and a half months; he has a £35m price tag to justify, Liverpool need a goal and he is nursing a sense of grievance. The combination is nothing if not combustible.
His manager, Kenny Dalglish, said that the elbow delivered late in the first leg by Braga's Brazilian defender Kaká was "meant to hurt" and wondered aloud why Uefa had taken no action. Carroll, who had come on as a second-half substitute, was not even awarded a free-kick. "If it were one of our players or a British player there would have been mayhem. For something as deliberate as that they must surely have some form of retrospective retribution," said Dalglish.
In the immediate aftermath of Liverpool's 1-0 defeat in Portugal, Dalglish made little of the incident as he had not seen it. It was only after reviewing the club's feeblest European performance of the season on television that he became concerned. As a player, Dalglish had his cheekbone broken in a collision with Manchester United's Kevin Moran in 1984. "I do know how dangerous it can be," he said. "But it is not just because it has happened to me. I have seen it happen to a lot of other people. It is one thing going up to protect yourself, it is another going up to hurt an opponent. That was [meant] to hurt Andy."
Given that Carroll troubled Braga throughout his 34 minutes on the pitch, it would be a surprise if he did not start his first match since his move from Newcastle United. The 22-year-old possesses an often volatile temper, although Dalglish was confident he will not be drawn into retaliation in a match Liverpool have to win by two clear goals. "The best way for him to respond would be to do what he did last week: keeping his composure," he said. "That's a great credit to him. The best way for Andy to answer anything is to be on the winning side. That is the same for everyone because they will all be aggrieved. The best way to vent our anger would be to get a good result."
Despite their defeat in Portugal and their lack of an away goal, that is something Liverpool remain confident of. In September, Braga were swept away 6-0 at Arsenal, after which their coach, Domingos Paciência, said: "We did not manage to be even a little of what we usually are." They, at least, have survived in European competition a little longer than Arsenal, the club that inspired their foundation.
They were good enough to overcome an insipid Liverpool in the ground known locally as La Pedriera (the Quarry) but Dalglish imagined Braga would have to be rather better to survive to the quarter-finals of the Europa League. "I expect them to be very much as they were in the first leg," he said. "They were not too offensive there, although they were better than us. We were very disappointed with how we played and we will step up our game at Anfield. If Braga don't step up to the plate, they could be in a bit of trouble."
Steven Gerrard is making good progress after his groin operation and should be back for the last month of the season but Liverpool's is now a starkly-defined campaign. The draw for the FA Cup semi-finals ensured that either Bolton Wanderers or Stoke City will qualify for next season's Europa League with Birmingham City. If they are not to experience a season without European football for the first time in 12 years, Liverpool will either have to overtake Tottenham Hotspur, who are six points ahead, have a game in hand and a better goal difference to finish fifth, or win the Europa League.
"We don't need that for extra motivation," Dalglish said. "The players enjoy European football. We have got to keep pushing to get as high as we can up the league and as far as we can in this competition. We might fall short in some areas but we won't fall short in attitude."
Liverpool (probable 4-2-3-1): Reina; Carragher, Skrtel, Kyrgiakos, Johnson; Spearing, Poulsen; Kuyt, Meireles, Cole; Carroll.
Braga (probable: 4-2-3-1): Artur; Garcia, Kaká, Rodriguez, Silvio; Salino, Viana; Alan, Mossoro, Paulo César; Lima.
Referee Gianluca Rocchi (It)
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