Monday 18 December 2017

Rodgers fears travel sickness for City test

Daniel Sturridge shows his close control during Liverpool’s training session in Melwood yesterday
Daniel Sturridge shows his close control during Liverpool’s training session in Melwood yesterday

Luke Edwards

Brendan Rodgers has criticised the Premier League for failing to ensure English teams in the Europa League are protected domestically as he admitted that Manchester City will be in far better shape when they face each other on Sunday.

Rodgers is particularly annoyed by the fact that the game against City is kicking off at noon on Sunday, just 57 hours after Liverpool are due to land at John Lennon Airport on their return from playing Beskitas in Turkey.

City played against Barcelona on Tuesday night and will have plenty of time to recover and prepare on the training ground.

With Liverpool's players not expected to get into bed until around 4.30am, the Europa League is a heavy burden to carry when you are trying to push for a top-four finish.

"The Europa League is tough, especially if you don't get help, and we're on early on the Sunday," said Rodgers, who will lead his team out against Besiktas at the same ground where Liverpool were crowned champions of Europe in 2005 against AC Milan.


"It's still a European competition. I would rather be in it than not. We're playing a lot of games this season, we are doing well. We are in a couple of competitions and if we want to maintain that, and work well for the coming years, we have to get used to a lot of games. It is unfortunate, but we will do our best."

With the winners of the Europa League automatically earning a place in next season's Champions League, Rodgers is caught in a quandary.

He is yet to win a trophy as Liverpool manager, the barometer by which all success is measured, but he also needs to try and make sure the club continues to gain access to the Champions League pot of gold.

However, the Europa League is draining because of the Thursday night games he could end up missing out on both objectives.

Rodgers is trying to manage his resources the best he can and although Daniel Sturridge will start against Besiktas, Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho, Glen Johnson and Mamadou Sakho all remained on Merseyside.

"It's not ideal," he said. "I've had to bring out young Coutinho.

"He's an out-standing young player for us, a key player for us and he's played a lot of game consecutively for us now. This was a game that I'd earmarked to give some recovery, knowing he can stay at home and prepare for the weekend.

"That extra 48 hours they [City] will have could be crucial, certainly physically. As we don't get back until 3am, we will have very little preparation time. It'll just be about recovery. It doesn't help us. But look, it's the way it's been dealt and we'll deal with it the best we can. The players have had lots of challenges to overcome this season and we are ready to keep performing and doing the best we can.

"We're just trying to manage the situation to try and get the result we need tomorrow night to get us through. Then we can concentrate on the game at the weekend."

Raheem Sterling is also expected to start in the Ataturk Olimpiyat Stadium and the England international insisted the delay in agreeing a new contract is not a distraction.

"I speak to my representative every day and he has just told me to concentrating on playing football ,and him and the club will deal with it," Sterling said. "Hopefully it will be done soon."

With 10 goals so far this season, it has been another promising campaign for the 20-year-old, but he was critical of himself. "It has been a bit stop start, but for a young player I suppose that is natural. If I want to get my game to the next level, I need to be consistent. If I'm not scoring, I need to be assisting a goal or having a strong effect on the game. That is something I am working on.

"I've got 10 goals, but I don't think I'm being harsh on myself. I could easily have had 15 goals if I had taken half my chances. The game against Manchester United was a low point.

"I had a few chances that day to win us the game and I missed them.

"I was devastated. I went home and watched the clips over and over again, I can't tell you how many times I watched it just to see what i could have done better." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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