Sunday 8 December 2019

'Gary Lineker has never been a manager': Brendan Rodgers hits back at critics over team selection

Liverpool's coach Brendan Rodgers in Madrid
Liverpool's coach Brendan Rodgers in Madrid

Sam Wallace

Brendan Rodgers tonight hit back at criticism that he had betrayed Liverpool’s European traditions by fielding a weakened team against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, and pointed to his side’s battling qualities in only going down 1-0 to the defending champions.

The Liverpool manager came under sharp criticism from Gary Lineker in particular with the BBC pundit tweeting that the side – missing seven fit first team regulars – was “unbefitting of a club of Liverpool’s stature”. Rodgers’s team’s defeat left them requiring wins from their last two games against Ludogorets and Basel to get out the Champions League group, providing Real Madrid also win their remaining games.

Rodgers picked the side, he said, with the Premier League game against Chelsea on Saturday in mind. He said: “Lineker has never been a manager so he perhaps does not understand what it’s like to have to pick a team. I respect his opinion but I thought the performance spoke for itself. Ronaldo scores in every game; he did not score tonight.”

Rodgers left out Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, Dejan Lovren, Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho, Glen Johnson and Mario Balotelli. Rodgers said: “All the players understood the decision [team selection]. They are top professionals. I am very fortunate with the players I have. And for me the name is irrelevant. It’s not about the big names, it’s about the performance.

“I spoke to Steven weeks ago about my plans for the next few games. He understood the decision tonight. The players understood. Tonight gives me great food for thought. And all those who did not play tonight, that does not mean they will play against Chelsea.”

Madrid had 28 attempts on goal to Liverpool’s four and 57 per cent of the possession. Yet only nine of Madrid’s attempts on goal were on target. Rodgers said that his side were disappointed not to get a point.

Rodgers said: “We are disappointed with the result but I thought we deserved something from the game. It was an excellent start and we defended well against what is currently the best team in the world; a team that are winning by four or five, six goals.

“We have seen games here at this stadium that are finished after 15 or 20 minutes. We are not consistent at the moment with only one win in five or six games so I felt this was the best team for the game."

He continued: “I go with my gut feeling and my gut feeling was after the match against Newcastle at the weekend this was the side for this game. And having played seven games in 21 days when you can’t train so much and when you have to develop things in the games themselves.

“I don’t think in terms of big showcase games. I did not see this a big showcase game. I thought Kolo Toure was excellent; Adam Lallana was excellent, Fabio Borini showed good movement. It might have seen a gamble but it wasn’t.”

Dejan Lovren's wife was also clearly unimpressed:


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