Liverpool begin their first Champions League season in five years tomorrow as they host Bulgarian side Ludogorets, who are based in Razgrad. The club won its first promotion to the top division in the country in 2011, and have won three successive league title since.
The Premier League side needs to get back to winning ways after losing to Aston Villa 1-0 on Saturday pretty meekly. The Reds failed to take even a point at home and Aston Villa went home, still undefeated in the league.
But the return of Champions League nights at Anfield and for Liverpool FC is what is being looked forward to the most. The Merseyside club are the most successful English nation in Europe with five Champions League wins, the most recent of which came in 2005 at Istanbul. Liverpool also made the final in 2007 but lost 2-1 to AC Milan there.
In the pre-match conference, Rodgers spoke about being back in the illustrious competition.
“The club has been away from the Champions League for too long. My main priority was to get the club back to this level,” he said.
“Liverpool are one of the footballing greats of world football and the Champions League is the elite competition. A few supporters have been in my office this last week and they’re really looking forward to traveling Europe again and the big games. That’s why we do all this — for the supporters.The key for us is building a top four sustainable club. Everyone wants to work at the elite level, and the Champions League is that”
“We’re very excited to be in the Champions League. Five years is a long time to be out of it for a club like Liverpool. Our overriding objective first of all is to qualify and come out of the group. We’ll take it one game at a time and aim for three points. Ludogorets will be a tough game for us, like all games at this level. They play an open, attacking style of football. They’re a team that attack and want to do well. They’re a top team. But it’s more about ourselves” added the Liverpool boss.
The Northern Irishman also spoke regarding Gerrard, Balotelli and confidence of playing the Liverpool way. He said,“Steven Gerrard has a great record in this competition, and the young players are going to gain valuable experience playing in it. We’ve got no fear of the competition. We’ll impose our style, our way of working and playing. We’ve done that and continue to do so. Balotelli is working very hard, he was unfortunate to be ill last week. It was only matchday he declared himself fit to play. Balotelli is arguably one of the most experienced players we have at the highest level. He’s relishing the responsibility and works hard.”
The manager admitted that his side needs to up their game against the visitors and in general, improve the performance to get off to a winning start.
“We need to up the tempo of our game, press more and that will ignite the crowd at Anfield, who have been brilliant since I got here,” he said.
“We need to be better defensively. We were disappointed at the weekend. When you dominate but don’t score, you at least want a point. We need to give some time for the new players to play cohesively. Our emphasis will always be positive, but we need to tighten up.”
The manager spoke about the unknown opposition for the Premier League side. He said, “Ludogorets’ emphasis is on attacking football. But I only worry about ourselves. We’re used to starting games quickly. But it’s important that if we don’t get an early goal, we know how to avoid conceding, go forward, invent and penetrate. Ludogorets have done very well to qualify for the group stages and they’ll be excited about coming to the iconic stadium of Anfield. Ludogorets signed a goalkeeper last night, we’ve got our guys working on who could play against us. We’re prepared.”
Rodgers concluded by saying it is an honor to be leading Liverpool in the Champions League.
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