Rodgers relishing Bernabeu test

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Published: Monday 3rd November 2014 by The News Editor

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Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is adamant his side are not heading into the Bernabeu like lambs to the slaughter and insists their current plight is being over-exaggerated.

Having lost to Newcastle, scraped past Swansea and been held to a goalless draw at home to Hull in the last week, the last place you would want to take your team is Madrid.

The Champions League holders and Primera Division leaders dished out a lesson at Anfield two weeks ago, racing into a 3-0 half-time lead before easing off as they saved themselves for the Clasico against Barcelona, and the fear is they could run amok on home turf.

Few give the Reds a hope of getting anything out of the game, never mind repeating their famous 1-0 win here in 2009 – a masterclass in tactical discipline by former boss Rafael Benitez.

But Rodgers stressed there would be no conceding this game – even though the reality remains that their Group B future will be decided by the final two matches against Basle and Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets.

“We are certainly not coming here as a team expected to lose and then look at the other games as games to qualify,” Rodgers said.

“For us, we see it as an opportunity. We still very much have qualification in our hands.

“It is a wonderful arena – one of the iconic football grounds in the world – and, when you come up against the best opponents, that is the challenge and what makes you perform to your best.

“They are probably the best team in the world at the moment and we really look forward to big games.

“We see them as an opportunity rather than a threat to what we are doing.

“Our defence have come under quite a bit of criticism. It is nowhere near as bad as people make out.

“What has been the frustration defensively has been the mistakes and sloppy goals we have given away.

“There haven’t been too many times when the team has been outdone.

“When you have an attacking philosophy you are going to be susceptible in your defensive side because you are not sat with nine players behind the ball.

“You are looking to control and dominate the game, but we have to eradicate the errors.

“The key, even though we know it is tough, is to make sure we are compact and disciplined in our game.

“I think we showed in the previous game, although the score was 3-0, we can still have moments when we can hurt Real Madrid and that will be the idea (on Tuesday).

“There is absolutely no question we have the courage. This is a team and a group of players who have been so brave to take on the challenge I have asked them to.”

Goals – both conceding and scoring – have been a problem this season. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo – who needs one to equal Raul’s Champions League record of 71 – has 20 for the campaign, which is one more than the entire Liverpool team.

Any optimism surrounding the presence of last season’s second highest scorer Daniel Sturridge, missing with injuries since the end of August, on the flight out was quickly quashed by Rodgers.

“All the players have travelled, fit or injured. These games this week (they host unbeaten Premier League leaders Chelsea at the weekend) are very important.

“We will see how Daniel responds, but it is highly unlikely he will be fit.”

The return of the England striker would have provided a much-needed boost to morale, but midfielder Jordan Henderson insists confidence is not being damaged by poor performances.

“It is a huge game. Real are in a good run of form so it will be a tough test for us but a great opportunity for us to show what we can do and prove people wrong,” the Reds vice-captain said.

“There is still a lot of confidence in the group and team spirit isn’t an issue.

“We have had a few people criticising us over the last few games so this is a massive opportunity to prove a few people wrong and see how good we are.

“We know we are not at our best yet but this is a great opportunity to show we are still a top side with great quality in the team and we just need to be a bit more ruthless in the final third.”

Published: Monday 3rd November 2014 by The News Editor

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