Tuesday 23 January 2018

Rodgers: 'Stoke clash is perfect timing'

Reds boss eyes an early backlash to 6-1 drubbing

Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers believes his side have been handed the "perfect fixture" with which to kick off their new season in a trip to Stoke.

A disappointing 2014-15 for the Reds ended in humiliating fashion in May with them suffering a 6-1 Barclays Premier League thumping against the Potters at the Britannia Stadium - a game in which they found themselves 5-0 down at half-time.

They are back at the ground taking on Mark Hughes' men again tomorrow to open their 2015-16 campaign.

And Rodgers said at his pre-match press conference: "When the fixture came out, I felt we couldn't have had a better one to be honest.

"I think lots of people have looked at it wondering whether we would have been better going back later, but for me it was the perfect fixture and I was happy when it came out.


"The reaction (to the 6-1 loss) over the course of the summer has been terrific and it gives us real motivation now to start the season well."

Rodgers - whose side finished outside the Champions League berths in sixth place last season, a year after coming second - has labelled the last meeting with Stoke as "unacceptable" and vowed things will be different this time around.

"You always aim to go out as you mean to start the next season, and we certainly do not mean to start the way we played there," he said.

"It was a unique game. But it should never be the case, whatever the excuse, because you are fighting for people who live their lives for the football club.

"We all knew it was unacceptable, and whatever stick we got for it, we thoroughly deserved that.

"We'll certainly be better than we were last year, that's for sure.

"It was a one-off game in terms of the whole experience - it was incredible. In every aspect of high-class football we were lacking. It was very surprising and very disappointing.

"But we will look to return to the levels we have had over the last couple of seasons here. That will give us a chance to win. We know it will be a tough game, but it will certainly be tougher for them than it was last season."

Along with Benteke, other summer recruits set to make their Liverpool debuts tomorrow are Nathaniel Clyne, James Milner, Roberto Firmino and Danny Ings.

Striker Daniel Sturridge (hip) and defender Jon Flanagan (knee) are the absentees from the squad, as well as midfielder Joe Allen, who has been ruled out for three to four weeks with a hamstring injury. Rodgers also revealed that Milner has been appointed as vice-captain to the club's new skipper Jordan Henderson, his fellow England midfielder.

And the manager refused to be drawn on whether forwards Fabio Borini and Mario Balotelli were any closer to leaving Liverpool, saying when asked specifically about the future of the latter: "Every player knows exactly where they stand in relation to the squad."

Stoke, meanwhile, will be without captain Ryan Shawcross with a back injury, but striker Bojan Krkic is in line to make his first competitive appearance in seven months.

Ireland defender Marc Wilson (ankle) also unlikely to face the Reds having not trained all week.

Bojan returned to action this summer following his long-term knee problem and could start and boss Mark Hughes expects new signing Ibrahim Afellay to feature.

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