Tuesday 19 November 2019

Rodgers rests big guns in bid to break Hearts

Brendan Rodgers started his Premier League tenure as Liverpool manager with a 3-0 defeat against West Brom
Brendan Rodgers started his Premier League tenure as Liverpool manager with a 3-0 defeat against West Brom

Lisa Gray

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists he is not taking victory over Hearts for granted despite his decision to rest key players for the clash at Tynecastle.

Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson have all been left on Merseyside ahead of tonight's Europa League play-off first-leg tie. That means some fringe players will be involved against the Jambos, with one eye on Sunday's Premier League visit of champions Manchester City.

Asked if his squad selection means he sees the match with Hearts as being a straightforward one, Rodgers said: "Not at all. We had a tough game away in Gomel (in the previous round).


"It was a very difficult game and thankfully we won the game 1-0. Hearts will be a very, very difficult game for us. I've still taken a squad here that is a strong group. It's a chance to see some young players but I've got some strong, experienced players. There are international captains and Champions League winners, it's still a strong enough squad.

"We've got a very small squad, to be fair, so I've got to try to protect some of the players. We played for over half an hour with 10 men on Saturday as well and we've got a massive game at the weekend.

"I trust my players, I trust the group and whatever team we put out will always be to win the game. We want to do well in the competition, but it's a great opportunity for me to see the young players mixed in along with some of the experienced players."

For Rodgers, the league may be the priority but he also wants Liverpool to progress in Europe. "Our main objective is the league -- there is no question about that. When you work at Liverpool -- whether as a player or manager -- every game is important," he said.

"It's a very important game for us, we want to do well. The objective over the two games is to get through to the group stages. It's certainly a game we want to win and we want to qualify over the course of the two games. We will pick strong teams that we think can do that."

Hearts suffered an emphatic 5-0 defeat at the hands of Tottenham at Tynecastle in the Europa League last season but Rodgers believes there is no chance of complacency within his ranks, despite the Edinburgh club's recent poor record against English opposition.

"It's certainly something that I've noticed in my short time here, that they are allergic to complacency," he said. "They focus every day and their concentration is good. They'll understand the size of the task in terms of coming here and having to play well."

Liverpool endured a disappointing start to the season with a 3-0 defeat at West Brom, which saw Daniel Agger sent-off. The Anfield boss said: "We were obviously disappointed at the time.

"Like I said to them after the game, on reflection on the Monday, we could live that day 1,000 times over and it probably would never be worse than it was on the day. Everything went against us.

"They are a very honest group and they don't need telling that in terms of result it wasn't so good. But in terms of going forward, I learned things from the game and there were some real good moments that will be good for us."

Hearts v Liverpool,

Live, ITV4/ Setanta Sports 1, 7.45

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