Stewart Downing Says Liverpool Only Concerned About Beating Udinese, Hopes to Progress in Europa League


Stewart Downing and Nuri SahinStewart Downing says Liverpool will only focus on its match against Udinese — not on events in Switzerland — as the UEFA Europa League group stage comes to a fascinating climax.

The Reds must match or better the result of Young Boys on Thursday to ensure progress into the knockout stages, but defeat could potentially end their European journey early.

Having featured in every game since the competition began this season, Downing is well-placed to reflect on the team’s campaign, and the wide-man called for 100 percent concentration in Italy.

“We go into every game to win — that’s the way the manager sets us up to play, home or away,” the 28-year-old insisted to

“First and foremost we have to do our job, not rely on the other team getting a result. If we win, that’s the most we can do. It would be disappointing if we did go out because I think we’ve played ever so well. We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but we have to get our win first.

“I would personally want to know what’s happening [in the other game], but I’m not sure if the manager would prefer that. He’ll just want us to win our game first and see what happens in the other one.”

Brendan Rodgers‘ side could have booked qualification a fortnight ago, only to concede a late equalizer against Young Boys at Anfield.

The 2-2 draw leaves the Reds with work to do against a side who left Merseyside with three points themselves in October — and Downing expects his teammates to have learned lessons from that loss.

“I think we shouldn’t be in this position anyway,” the former Middlesbrough and Aston Villa man continued. “Udinese at home — we were comfortable in the game and conceded sloppy goals.

“Anzhi as well away from home, we played ever so well and conceded another sloppy goal. We shouldn’t be in this position but we are — the only thing we can do is win our game.

“At half-time [against Udinese] the manager said we had to start the second half well because we were cruising in the first half. Sometimes a bit of confidence can set in, you can become lackadaisical. They scored straight away — the manager stressed that we couldn’t let them back in the game, which we did. It was disappointing — a total game of two halves. Credit to Udinese, they capitalized on it and got a result which they should never have got.”

Among the scorers that night was prolific striker Antonio Di Natale, who spearheads the Udinese attack, and Downing warned that the Reds will have to be wary of the 35-year-old again.

“He’s an important player for them,” he added. “You can see with his finish for the goal — his quality. We were warned about him before the game. In the first half we nullified him, we had plenty of the ball.

“But top players only need a second or a chance and they can sniff it out, and he did. He’ll be a big player for them, but we should concentrate on what we should do to their team and how we can hurt them.”

The majority of Downing’s appearances in a red shirt during 2012-13 have come in this competition, as well as both of his goals, and the winger-turned-defender is a fan of the tournament.

“It has been good,” he reflected. “I’ve had a couple of good goals and some good performances. It’s obviously nice to play — that’s where most of my appearances have been this season.

“It would be nice to go through because there are some big teams who are going to drop out from the Champions League, it would be a good test for us. I’m hoping it goes our way. It’s more games, more opportunities for players to get a chance. It’s been a good competition for us so far, bar one disappointing result. We’re looking to go through and test ourselves against some big teams because it gets harder as you go along.

“There’s a lot of confidence, we’ve picked up a few good results. Looking at the batch of games we’ve got now, we’re looking to pick up quite a lot of points over the Christmas period. The lads are looking forward to the games coming up.”

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