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Saturday 19 August 2017

Brendan Rodgers wary of Madrid threats all over

Brendan Rodgers' men face the European champions on Wednesday
Brendan Rodgers' men face the European champions on Wednesday

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists his side cannot become too focused on stopping Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League this week as Real Madrid have enough quality to hurt them elsewhere.

Real's other flying forward Gareth Bale is unlikely to feature because of an injury which kept him out of the weekend's 5-0 win over Levante but Ronaldo will undoubtedly take centre stage in the Group B clash at Anfield tomorrow.

The Portugal international arrives on the back of breaking at 71-year La Liga record by scoring 15 goals in the first eight matches of the season and while his talent cannot be under-estimated, Rodgers stressed it would be foolish to focus solely on him.

EVOLUTION

"He's a player off the charts. His evolution in recent years, the way how he has become a goalscorer has been amazing," said Rodgers who also denied he was due to sign any Spanish player in the next few months, suggesting his interest in former out-of-contract Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes has cooled.

"We need to know how to stop him but there is danger in other parts of the field. You have (Luka) Modric, (Toni) Kroos - wonderful technicians who can play short, long.

"I'm also a big admirer of Sergio Ramos (another injury doubt as he has not featured since October 5) since his young days at Sevilla where he came through the system before making a move and then making to over 100 caps for Spain.

"It is a magnificent achievement and he is fast, strong and has personality. I love it.

"They have amazing talents all over the field and they have the technique to play in small spaces and when the space opens up there is no one better on the counter-attack in Ronaldo and Bale because, they are two players that could be in the Olympic 100 metres final.

"They are as strong a team now as they have been for many years. They have everything, big experience, big players, speed, technique and a great manager in (Carlo) Ancelotti, a good man who works with players and who is a good person.

"And they are the reigning champions as well and they will want to defend their title."

POOR

Liverpool go into game on the back of a poor performance at QPR which - even though ended in victory - did little for confidence.

Captain Steven Gerrard admitted afterwards if they reproduced a similar display against Real they would have "no chance" of winning, but Rodgers believes the status of the fixture will bring out the best in his players.

"Whenever you play in the big games the great competitors come out and I have no doubt with my players as their mentality is very strong," he said.

"It is a really exciting game. The work we put in over the last season or so means this is our reward but it is a game we want to go and win.

"Anfield is a special place for a Champions League football game and we are really looking forward to it.

"But you have to be careful - they are the best counter-attacking team in the world with the speed they have.

"You have to have an educated pressure, pressing at the right moments, but you cannot leave space behind that."

Midfielder Jordan Henderson echoed the sentiments of his captain by admitting they have to improve.

"We all know we need to be better than that," he said. "We will take the positives and we will work on the negatives in training ahead of a big game.

"It wouldn't matter if it was Real Madrid or whoever next, we need to improve in all areas after that.

"They've got some great players but you want to be playing against the best players and the best teams in the world. That's how you improve as a player. We have to go out there with no fear and focus on playing the way we know we can. Our performance level needs to be high. We're capable of getting a good result."

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