Champions League

Reds to spring Real surprise

2014-10-21 21:05
Brendan Rodgers (AFP)

Liverpool - Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has urged his "world-class" players to defy the odds when they face Real Madrid in the Champions League at Anfield on Wednesday.

The Reds welcome host the European Cup-holders to Merseyside on the back of a mixed start to their English Premier League campaign.

Liverpool have so far struggled in both domestic and continental competition this term, having played in thrilling fashion to finish runners-up in the Premier League last season.

Rodgers has publicly admitted Liverpool have "stalled" since striker Luis Suarez, who scored 31 goals last term, left to join Real's fellow Spanish giants Barcelona for a reported £75 million in July.

Liverpool laboured to a 2-1 home win over Bulgarian side Ludogorets Razgrad in their opening Champions League fixture and lost 1-0 away to Swiss side Basel in their second Group B clash.

However, Rodgers said Tuesday his players would relish the chance to face Real Madrid on their own turf despite the stuttering start they have made to the season.

"Of course we are looking forward to facing Real Madrid, but also I have some world-class players," Rodgers told a news conference.

"This group lift themselves for the big games," the Northern Irishman added.

"We haven't got to the levels of last season for whatever reason but I'm confident, with the great competitors we have, the team will rise to the standards set by playing Real Madrid.

"For me coming into the competition we knew our home games would be important.

"What people haven't seen is that while we've been building a style of football it's been underpinned by character and spirit.

"We're going to need that. If we can do that at home here, it's another step to qualifying out of the group."

According to Rodgers, Liverpool must nullify the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo, who has already scored 18 goals in all competitions for Real this season, if they are to get anything out of the game.

"Cristiano Ronaldo is arguably the best player in the world at the moment," he said. "His evolution from a soloist who scores goals, to a goalscorer is there for all to see.

"We have to prepare for the quality players they have and we will do that as a team going into the game."

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard agreed with Rodgers's assessment of Ronaldo as the main threat, and acknowledged the Portugal forward had taken his game to a different level from when he was at Manchester United.

"I think when Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Manchester United there were signs he was a world-class player," Gerrard said.

"But his game has gone to another level. He's arguably now the best player in the world.

"The numbers and goals he scored, he's set new records. He's a phenomenal player."

However, former England midfielder Gerrard added that Real were more than a one-man team.

"Real Madrid have a lot of other good players as well though. It's important that we perform well collectively and make it difficult for them.

"I don't think Real Madrid will come here with any fear. Playing in the Champions League is a challenge we've worked hard for, this is almost like a bonus game for us.

"We are hoping that we can surprise and shock a few people on the night."

Liverpool are still without striker Daniel Sturridge who has a calf injury while defender Mamadou Sakho remains on the sidelines with a thigh problem.

Real Madrid are set to be without Wales forward Gareth Bale bbecause of a thigh injury.

But Rodgers does not believe Liverpool opponents are necessarily that much weaker even without their record signing.

"Gareth Bale when he is playing he is a world-class player," Rodgers explained. "He has got fantastic speed and talent.

"But no, it's not an advantage if he does not play, because they have some great players to come in."


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