When the teamsheets were announced for Liverpool’s trip to the mighty Santiago Bernabeu to face reigning European Champions Real Madrid, plenty of Liverpool fans could have been excused for rubbing their eyes in disbelief.
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Manager Brendan Rodgers made the decision to leave out Steven Gerrard, Mario Balotelli, Jordan Henderson, Dejan Lovren, Raheem Sterling and Glen Johnson, with Liverpool’s Premier League game against Chelsea on Saturday on his mind. The team he put out — which had seven changes to the side which lost to Newcastle last week — lost 1-0 after a brave display.
Or so we thought.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Liverpool’s boss had the following to say when asked why he chose to rest his main men.
“I’ve got to manage a squad which has seven games in 21 days,” Rodgers said. “I didn’t rest players for next Saturday, it was a team who I thought could get a result, and we were unfortunate not to get a result. Against the best team in the world. It’s easy to say that we may have done better with a different team but listen, we could have lost 5-0.”
Over 4,000 fans traveled from Liverpool to watch their team in the Spanish capital and the team selection from Rodgers, despite what he said, seemed to tell them that he had prioritized Saturday’s clash with Chelsea at Anfield over an away game against the best team in Europe.
Is that right or wrong?
You be the judge of that. Many former players, fans and pundits have lashed out at Rodgers for not picking his so-called best team and not giving his side the best possible chance to beat Real plus letting down the Liverpool fans who made the journey to Spain thinking their side would go for the win. In theory, the team Rodgers picked played a lot better than the team he selected at Newcastle on Saturday and the team who lost to Real 3-0 at Anfield two weeks ago.
One thing is for sure, if Liverpool’s boss brings back the players he rested on Tuesday for the clash vs. Chelsea and the Reds don’t win, he will come in for plenty of criticism.
The reason he did this was to try and pick up three points in the PL and enhance Liverpool’s chances of finishing in the top four this season. That would mean UCL qualification for next season and another huge cash windfall. But what about Liverpool’s players who worked so hard last season to secure a spot in the UCL? Surely the likes if Gerrard, Coutinho and Johnson earned the chance to play against Real in the Bernabeu?
Reports are already stating a plane will be flown over Anfield on Saturday with a banner asking for Rodgers to be fired. Decisions like this will not have helped his cause among Liverpool’s fans as pressure begins to build on the man who delivered UEFA Champions League soccer to the Merseyside club and guided them to second-place in the Premier League last season.
As they say, a year is a long time in football.