Brendan Rodgers last night admitted that Liverpool’s draining schedule will hand Manchester City a significant advantage when the two sides meet in the Premier League on Sunday.
Liverpool arrived in Istanbul to face Besiktas after a near-four hour flight on Wednesday evening and will return home in the early hours of tomorrow morning. They will only start preparing for one of the most critical fixtures of their league campaign a day before they face the champions at Anfield on Sunday lunchtime.
“That extra 48 hours Manchester City have to prepare could be crucial,” said the Liverpool manager, “especially as we don’t get back until three in the morning and we will have very little preparation time.
“The key is rest. At this stage of the season, the physical condition of the players is there but what is vital is sleep and rest. They will not rest much going back on the plane with the adrenalin flowing after a game. Friday will be about rest, then we prepare Saturday and the game is Sunday – and we haven’t been given much help, because we are playing relatively early on the Sunday.”
As Rodgers attempted to defend a 1-0 lead against Beskitas, who are second in the Turkish Super Lig, he is discovering the full cost that comes with Europa League football. Philippe Coutinho did not travel with the squad while fellow midfielder Jordan Henderson and defender Mamadou Sakho, are also missing.
At the same Ataturk Stadium where a decade ago Liverpool won the European Cup in outrageous circumstances, beating Milan on penalties after coming back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3, Rodgers will patch together a side that will attempt to defend their lead in an arena that will be full and impassioned.
The Besiktas coach, Slaven Bilic, whose side was denied a goalless draw by a late Mario Balotelli penalty at Anfield, said his team “was still alive and still in the tie”.
Nevertheless, they will need two goals to go through and they will have to attack far more coherently than they did in the first leg, even against a Liverpool side that is showing clear signs of exhaustion.
“We are just trying to manage the situation and get the result we need that will see us through,” said Rodgers. “It is still a European competition. I would rather be in it than not and, if we want to perform at a consistently high level over the next few years then we have to get used to playing a lot of games in a very short space of time.”
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