It hasn’t been a great time to be a Liverpool supporter, player or coach. The post-Luis Suarez Reds have stumbled in the Premier League, and those much-desired “European nights at Anfield” are more than half over if the Brendan Rodgers’ side can’t pull together some UEFA Champions League points soon.
That’s much easier said than done with Tuesday’s visit to the Bernabeu on tap. Real walked into Anfield and sauntered away with a 3-0 win on Oct. 22, the final score carrying over from halftime and keeping Liverpool in a three-way tie for second place.
And while all three teams still have a date with Real, which has rolled through the Group B competition with a plus-8 goal differential and could clinch it with a win against Liverpool and help tonight, the Reds play Madrid straightaway and could be in last place if they lose in Spain.
Group B was supposed to be a tune-up for the knockout round; Liverpool could test themselves against the Spanish giants while testing out their combinations against Basel and Ludogorets Razgrad. Instead, the Reds barely squeaked past the visiting Bulgarian side thanks to Steven Gerrard’s stoppage time heroics at Anfield before falling 1-0 at Basel.
Still, Rodgers knows his side is alive, and a result against Madrid would be a major feather in their group play cap.
“Our objectives this year are still very much within our own hands,” he said. “It’s in our hands to get out of this group – we’ve got three more tough games to come, but it’s within our grasp to do that and our objective was to qualify from the group.
“In the other competitions, we’re in the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup and we’re sat three points off the Champions League positions in the league, and we still have a lot of improvements to make.
“Despite some of the negativity that surrounds the squad and the team – clearly because of the expectations we set last year – we sit with a very honest group who are working very hard and have great character, once we slip into that dynamic of pressing and passing well, we’ll hopefully get back to the levels we’ve shown over the last 18 months.”
Rodgers is also keeping the Premier League in focus after a 1-0 loss away to Newcastle United this weekend, and he’s bringing his entire squad — fit and unfit — to Spain. They’ll stay in Madrid on Wednesday to prepare for Saturday’s massive match against Chelsea.
Perhaps the change of scenery will benefit everyone as Rodgers tries to pull his team together. Surely the absence of Suarez has been a big factor, but Liverpool shouldn’t be struggling the way they have early this season. Maybe the Spanish air can help Steven Gerrard turn back the hands of time a bit, as the Reds legend has looked quite off the past few weeks.