Brendan Rodgers Says Liverpool Will Cope Without Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger and Lucas in Decisive Udinese Test


Daniel AggerBrendan Rodgers explained how the decision to omit Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger and Lucas Leiva from the squad that traveled to Udinese on Wednesday was a purely precautionary one.

Gerrard remained in Merseyside due to illness, and Agger did not travel in order to give the Dane time to recuperate after a long run of games in the side.

Meanwhile Lucas was afforded a well-earned rest after making an impressive return from injury against Southampton on Saturday.

And while the manager admitted the trio will be missed when the Reds go in search of a vital victory on Thursday night, he has backed Luis Suarez to shine in Italy and fire the Reds into the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League.

“Steven has been ill for the last couple of days,” explained Rodgers. “He only really started to jog around on the field this morning.

“To not have Steven here certainly weakens the squad because he is a world-class player. So it’s unfortunate that he is ill but it was just too much of a risk for him to travel and then not be available to play.

“We have been managing Agger throughout the games [this season] so that he is at his optimum level for every performance.

“Likewise with Lucas — he’s just come back from a long-term injury. He did fantastic at the weekend but it’s too early for him to play two games in one week. The three will come back into the squad for Sunday’s game. But we’re still strong. We’ve come out here to win the game.

“What’s important about Liverpool is the collective. We don’t rely on one player, it is about the team and that’s what we’ll rely on tomorrow night.”

Suarez has not featured for the Reds in Europe away from home since completing his move to England in January 2011.

Against Udinese at Anfield in October, he was a half-time substitute and almost rescued a point for the home side when he fired a free-kick into the Kop net to pull the Reds back into contention.

“Tomorrow night’s game is one that he’s really looking forward to and it’s a great game for him to showcase all his quality,” said Rodgers.

“Luis is the type of player who can make things happen. He’s a world-class striker and when you have got a world-class operator in your team then it certainly makes you a better side.

“We’ve seen that throughout the season so far. He’s been absolutely brilliant and he would have actually liked to have played in more of these games but I have been trying to manage him and get a way through this group while trying to give other people an opportunity.”

Udinese prevailed at Anfield back in early October, when they overturned a Liverpool lead to go ahead 3-1 before Suarez pegged them back.

And Rodgers insists that his side must concentrate better than they did after the interval in the first tie, if they are to succeed in the second and decisive encounter against Udinese tomorrow evening.

“At Anfield we played really, really well in the first half and then we lost our concentration at the beginning of the second,” said Rodgers. “That culminated in us going on to lose the game. So for us it’s about concentrating on our game and making sure we have complete focus for the 90 minutes.

“They’ve got some very good players, in particular Antonio Di Natale, who has been a wonder player through his career. Our confidence is good at the moment and we’ll look to take that into the game tomorrow night.

“Udinese cannot qualify but it won’t affect the game because I think that every professional player, especially in European football wants to win games. We have everything to play for and Udinese are playing for pride and for their country.

“I don’t think it makes the game any easier. We know it’s a difficult game but we’re very confident and motivated to get the right result.”

Asked by journalists about how he feels he has progressed in his attempts to implement a new style of possession play at Anfield, the manager replied: “I’m not bringing anything that is really new. The objective is still the same here and that is to win games.

“We are obviously looking to play in a certain style but it’s a style that is accustomed to Liverpool and its great history.

“This is a club that for many years has passed the ball and moved and worked as a collective unit. That was the history of Liverpool and all we’re looking to do it repeat that.

“The present has been encouraging, we haven’t always got the results that our performances have warranted but I’ve got great confidence in the players and the club going forward.

“Liverpool have every right to want to be at the top of European football and it’s our job over the coming years to try and keep moving forward, day by day, game by, game. And tomorrow night gives us another chance to do that.”

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