Friday 19 January 2018

Toure: Fatigue not an issue for Reds in City showdown

Defender insists Liverpool can cope with short turnaround after pain of Europa League exit compounded by flight delay and 4.30am return

Kolo Toure of Liverpool
Kolo Toure of Liverpool

Carl Markham

Defender Kolo Toure has dismissed worries about fatigue as Liverpool look to pick themselves up from a disappointing Europa League exit.

After 120 minutes of football and then a penalty shoot-out defeat to Besiktas in Istanbul the squad touched down in the UK at 4.30am, just under 56 hours before they host title-chasing Manchester City.

Manager Brendan Rodgers had already expressed his concern about the tight time-frame - tomorrow's league match kicks off at noon, with City having had two days' extra recovery - and the additional delay in returning home will not have helped.

However, Toure, whose last two matches have both gone to penalties, having previously won the African Nations Cup with Ivory Coast, remains confident the Reds will be able to compete with the visitors.

Significant

With Liverpool just three points off third place heading into the weekend, the centre-back believes the game offers the chance to make a significant step towards Champions League qualification.

"This is the good thing with football. We play one of the most important games of the season and we just need to forget about Thursday night, learn from it, and then focus on the next game," he said.

"We will be ready. We are professional players and the manager will manage us to be 100pc for the game.

"It is a big game when you play against City you have to be at the top of your game to win. It is going to be crucial for the top.

"The atmosphere was against us in Istanbul, but in the next game it will be for us and we will definitely enjoy the game."

One player unlikely to be enjoying anything at the moment is Dejan Lovren, the only person to miss a spot-kick as Liverpool lost the shoot-out 5-4. It was their first European failure on penalties after three successes.

The Croatia international has had a miserable start to his Anfield career after a £20m summer move from Southampton; he came off the bench as Besiktas, and even that was only because of injury to Mamadou Sakho.

Sakho has returned to training this week after a hip problem, so Lovren may be left dwelling on his Ataturk Stadium miss for some time to come.

"To lose on penalties is always tough because we defended well, we played well and they had one really good chance and they scored," added Toure.

"Penalties are always difficult and everyone feels bad. It is the worst way to lose a game. It is hard. I have missed the odd penalty and I know how he feels. He is a top player but he took the responsibility to take one and for me that was important.

"Like all the players who came he needed time to adapt to the team but he is playing well. He is a strong character and we saw that."

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet insists the Europa League exit now focuses players' minds on what is required in the remainder of the season.

"We have always said we want to get into the Champions League for next year, and we are still in the FA Cup, so there are a lot of things to be played for this season," said the Belgian.

Liverpool v Manchester City, Live, Sky Sports 1, tomorrow, 12.0

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