Brendan Rodgers has 'best interests' of Liverpool in mind with plans to field reserve side in Europa League

 

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits he is trying to protect the club's Barclays Premier League season by fielding a virtual reserve side in Europe.

The Reds have had their worst start to a campaign in 100 years with just two points from their opening four matches and it does not get any easier with arch-rivals Manchester United heading to Anfield on Sunday.

As a result captain Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Jose Reina, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Joe Allen and Martin Kelly have all been left behind for tomorrow's Europa League clash with Swiss side Young Boys.

It means the likes of Samed Yesil, Suso, Andre Wisdom, Conor Coady, Adam Morgan, Jack Robinson and Dani Pacheco have all been included in the Europa League squad - which has an average age of just 21 and includes seven teenagers.

"I can understand why people would perceive us as not taking it seriously but I will always do what is in the best interests of the football club," said Rodgers.

"There is no doubt the Premier League is our number one priority, I've made that clear from the off with the position with our squad.

"I look at Real Madrid v Manchester City last night and Samir Nasri came off with an injury but they have a massive squad who can accommodate that.

"If I lose some of my key players that can make it very difficult for us for the next two or three months.

"There were parts of the game against Arsenal (after their Europa League play-off last month) where we were a bit leggy so we have to make sure we are all firing for Sunday.

"No matter what the perception is I know in my own mind I've brought a team here which has a mixture of experience and talented young players.

"I am fully aware that when you pull on a Liverpool shirt you are expected to win the games so I've brought a team I believe can win the game."

Rodgers is effectively gambling with the Europa League in an attempt to safeguard Liverpool's league form, a decision brought about more out of necessity than design.

The Northern Irishman's summer recruitment was not extensive and so he does not have that many options and their difficult start to the season has compounded matters.

It means he is putting faith in the likes of players who have been in the youth and reserve set-up for a while without having forced themselves into the first team.

However, Rodgers remains confident they can do a job for him alongside the more senior players.

"You never actually know about young players until you actually put them in this situation but we have a good mixture as well," he added.

"We have experienced international players and some very talented youngsters so I'm very much looking forward to the game.

"I've brought young players who I feel, from what I've seen in the early part of the season, can come in and contribute."

While the youngsters are just looking for a chance to earn a longer stay in the squad Rodgers insists some of the more senior players can still stake a claim for Sunday's clash against United.

He accepts, however, it is more about keeping them sharp enough to be able to slot in when needed.

"Brad Jones will play tomorrow. He has been first class. He hasn't had a look in at all this season but he has come in and worked well," he said.

"Guys like Jamie Carragher have been phenomenal. To see how he works and his passion to play for Liverpool is really encouraging and he is a great role model for players here.

"They are going to be up to speed in terms of games as the Europa League gives them chance to play.

"Boys like Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing have all been working hard in training and they will get minutes under their belts so if they are required to play they will be up to speed.

"Nuri Sahin needs games to get up to speed and they all need to keep ticking over because they're important players.

"There is no question why they can't be involved at the weekend.

"The idea is for the squad to be small as it keeps players who are just on the outside the motivation that they still have an opportunity."

PA

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