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Rodgers: We can win the Champions League

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Brendan Rodgers, left, felt bad for leaving Steven Gerrard, right, out of his side on the 16th anniversary of his Liverpool debut

Brendan Rodgers, left, felt bad for leaving Steven Gerrard, right, out of his side on the 16th anniversary of his Liverpool debut

Brendan Rodgers, left, felt bad for leaving Steven Gerrard, right, out of his side on the 16th anniversary of his Liverpool debut

Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, believes a Champions League victory over Basel would enable the club to dare to dream they can repeat the miraculous European Cup win of 2005.

The parallels with Liverpool’s improbable triumph in Istanbul 10 seasons ago have been unavoidable during this campaign.

Liverpool went into their final group game that season needing a win at Anfield to qualify for the knockout stages having made a poor start to their domestic campaign, while their captain, Steven Gerrard – just as now – had publically admitted he was considering his future.

What followed was a late winner from Gerrard over Olympiakos, and a glorious run to the final, culminating in victory over AC Milan.

Rodgers says no matter how inconsistent his side has been this season, nothing can be ruled out should his team make progress.

“Once you get through the group stage anything can happen. That is the key for me,” said Rodgers.

“I know come February, when it starts again, we will be a better team because of the players we'll have available if we manage to get through. That is what I am looking forward to. We have seen that the best team doesn't always win the competition. You can get a good draw, a bit of luck and, as I've said, we will have a good side that can do well come February I am sure.”

Liverpool’s campaign so far has seen them record a single victory – in their opening game against Bulgaria’s Ludogorets – but any win will see them through against the Swiss.

Rodgers accepts although Liverpool as a club believe they belong in this competition, it is overdue for the side to show their credentials.

“Absolutely. That is why we have worked so hard to be here as players and as a coach,” he said.

“We have deservedly qualified for this great competition because of our performances. Now we are in it we want to do well. From when the draw was made we saw ourselves as a team that could come out of the group and nothing has changed. We have won a game and disappointed in some of the others but the bottom line is it is about this game. I think the players have shown they've got the qualities for this level. There have been lots of new experiences for some of them but they will learn from it and hopefully as the competition goes on they will show that they have learnt from it.

“The beauty is without being fantastic this season we still have chance to qualify, we’re still in this position, and still have the ability to do that. The confidence has maybe been affected with changes, players gong and injuries but we still have talent and great collective spirit and hopes that combination takes us through.”

One nightmare possibility for Liverpool is finding themselves in the Europa League, with the inconvenience of Thursday night and Sunday football.

“I’m not even thinking about that,” said Rodgers.

“That’s a consequence of what happens. It’s not the competition you want to be in, but the only focus is winning this game. I haven’t given that one second thought.

“A win would give the players a huge amount of confidence, having not consistently played that well all season, the key tomorrow is to get a big win. It may not come with a big performance but the main objective is the win. Get that and we’ve seen over the years that qualification gives you confidence. We can then park it until February and concentrate on the league. We have had big performances in my time and want to deliver another to give us that platform.”

Liverpool will remain short of striking options with Mario Balotelli still struggling with a hamstring injury.

Rodgers has called up 18-year-old Jerome Sinclair and 17-year-old Sheyi Ojo, both of whom are vying for a place on the bench.

Sinclair made his senior Liverpool debut as a 16-year-old in the League Cup in 2012 but has had his progress disrupted by injury since.

The Liverpool manager has high hopes for the pair – winger Ojo was signed from MK Dons three years ago – and the lack of pace in his line-up has prompted their possible promotion.


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