Brendan Rodgers is not afraid of Real Madrid
However, with Liverpool losing to Newcastle, scraping past Swansea in the Capital One Cup and being held to a 0-0 draw at home to Hull in their previous three games, the last place you would want to take your team is Real Madrid.
The Champions League holders and Primera Division leaders dished out a lesson at Anfield two weeks ago, racing into a 3-0 half-time lead before easing off as they saved themselves for the El Clasico against Barcelona, and the fear is they could run amok on home turf.
Few give the Reds a hope of getting anything out of the game, never mind repeating their famous 1-0 win here in 2009. But Rodgers stressed there would be no conceding this game, even though the reality remains that their Group B future will be decided by the final two matches against Basel and Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets. “We are certainly not coming here as a team expected to lose and then look at the other games as games to qualify,” Rodgers said. “For us, we see it as an opportunity.
“We still very much have qualification in our hands. It is a wonderful arena – one of the iconic football grounds in the world – and, when you come up against the best opponents, that is the challenge and what makes you perform to your best.
“They are probably the best team in the world at the moment and we really look forward to big games. We see them as an opportunity rather than a threat to what we are doing.
“Our defence have come under quite a bit of criticism. It is nowhere near as bad as people make out. What has been the frustration defensively has been the mistakes and sloppy goals we have given away.
“There haven’t been too many times when the team has been outdone.
“When you have an attacking philosophy you are going to be susceptible in your defensive side because you are not sat with nine players behind the ball.”
Goals – both conceding and scoring – have been a problem for Liverpool this season. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who needs one to equal Raul’s Champions League record of 71, has 20 for the campaign, one more than the entire Liverpool team.
Any optimism surrounding the presence on the flight out of last season’s second-highest scorer Daniel Sturridge, missing with injuries since the end of August, was quickly quashed by Rodgers.
“All the players have travelled, fit or injured. These games this week (they host Premier League leaders Chelsea at the weekend) are very important. We will see how Daniel responds, but it is highly unlikely he will be fit.”