Brendan Rodgers was heavily criticised last night for fielding an understrength team against Real Madrid. The Liverpool manager left seven first-team regulars out of his starting line-up, and despite the Reds putting up a valiant effort, they suffered a 1-0 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Gary Lineker, the Match of the Day presenter, criticised Rodgers’ team selection claiming that it was “unbefitting of a club of Liverpool’s European stature”, further accused Rodgers of “throwing in the white towel”.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho didn’t miss the opportunity to give his hypocritical opinion saying he “would normally go with my best team” against “the most difficult opponents”.
Tony Barrett of The Times wrote:
“As an indictment of the squad at his disposal, Rodgers’s selection policy was damning. The message it sent out was that, after spending almost £120 million on transfers during the summer, Liverpool are unable to cope with playing two matches against top-class opposition in the space of five days. Rodgers opted to prioritise Chelsea’s visit to Anfield over the Champions League clash with Real, and picked his team for last night’s game accordingly.”
Damning? What’s harm in that if he has opted to do so? Even a sentimental fool didn’t keep any hope that Liverpool would go to Bernabeu (keeping in mind Real Madrid’s impressive recent form) and get a positive result by fielding a strong team, especially knowing how they were humiliated at home by the same opponent last time.
Rodgers is being rather practical here. Already Liverpool are struggling in the league, and back-to-back league defeats would see them dropping further behind their fellow rivals. Sometimes you have to act according to the situation.
“I have to show trust as a coach and a manager and we have to be focused on our next game against Chelsea and pick a team to win that one,” said Rodgers.
And even a victory against Chelsea is not guaranteed. At this moment, Chelsea are Liverpool’s “most difficult opponents” than Real Madrid, and that’s why it is necessary to “go with best team” against them.
The harsh reality is: this defeat against Real Madrid would leave no impact on this team what-so-ever, it’s the games against Basel and Ludogrets that would decide Liverpool’s fate.
And talk about Liverpool’s “£120 million on transfers” now is futile. Rodgers was keen to improve his squad depth, doesn’t necessarily mean he was looking to conquer Europe in his first Champions league outing as a manager!
This squad is no where near to the level you need to fight against top European clubs. That’s a brutal truth one has to accept. It was always going to be tough for these young players like Markovic, Moreno et al to fire cylinders straightaway. May be these youngsters would one day become top players in Europe, and Liverpool will reap the benefit in future, but certainly they are far from being the finished products at the moment.
And you think Liverpool, a club out of Champions League for five-six years could have signed players like Reus, Benzema, Isco, Hummels et al in the summer? No, that was practically impossible.
Liverpool indeed are facing an uphill struggle to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League, but they still have a chance of going through if they can win their next two matches.
Rodgers himself admitted that Liverpool’s tie against Chelsea holds paramount importance to him. A victory at Anfield could take them close to top four that should give a huge confidence lift and with Sturridge returning in a weeks’ time it could have a massive impact in Liverpool’s season. Rodgers has done exactly what any rational mind would have done in his place.
For that matter, why bother so much about Mourinho’s comment all of a sudden? Why did he pick a weak squad away to Anfield (it’s different that Liverpool couldn’t win that game) keeping all his main players fresh for the Champions League tie against Atletico? Wasn’t Liverpool a (genuine title challengers at that time) big opponent for him at that time?
Liverpool fans need to be practical here. Use your mind rather than heart, and you’ll see why Rodgers was right with his team selection last night.