Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling has declared in an interview ahead of tonight’s must-win Champions League tie with FC Basel that this difficult season has taught him that he can never expect the good times to last indefinitely in football.
Sterling, a vital part of Brendan Rodgers side for what he admits is one of his biggest games in football, said he now knows that the type of dip in fortune the side has experienced this season can happen at any time. “One minute you’re winning, the next you are not,” he said in tonight’s match programme. “In football nothing is certain. I’ve been through this before. In my first full season, I was doing well for a while. Then in my second season I wasn’t getting in the team, then suddenly I was and we nearly won the league and I went to the World Cup. We’ve been in one of those periods where you wish it was better. But even though I’ve only got a little bit of experience compared to some of the older players here, I know that the only way of getting through it is getting your head down and sticking together as a team.”
Sterling turned 20 yesterday and was celebrating his tenth birthday on the day that Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool beat Olimpiacos 3-1 in the game which propelled them to the Champions League knock-out stage, ahead of their legendary win in Istanbul. Sterling admitted that he could not remember where he was on that fabled Anfield night.
“I have to be honest,” he said, evidently after thinking long and hard about it. “I can’t remember where I was that night. I might have been out with my mates on my bike. I’m not sure whether the Olympiacos game was on Sky but we didn’t have it anyway. It’s a bit crazy when you think I’m now a part of Liverpool. I know how important that win was. Hopefully we can do the same this time around.”
It was Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat in Basel on October 1 which has contributed most to them needing a win tonight, while a draw will be enough for Paulo Souza’s side. But Sterling pointed out that the result should be seen in the context of Chelsea suffering the same reversal at the Swiss side last season. (Basel also won at Stamford Bridge but were still eliminated.)
“They’re a good side and they’ve done well in Europe over the years,” Sterling said. “But we know we can play a lot better than we did over there. They played better than us on the night and deserved to win at a stadium where quite a few good teams have lost. This time we’re at Anfield and that gives us strength. We’ve got to feed off the crowd and give a strong performance.”
Liverpool manager Rodgers insisted that the fact Liverpool are masters of their own destiny tonight is significant. “We won’t be looking to anywhere else, hoping something breaks in our favour. Equally we know there is no ‘second chance’ or no-one else that will be doing us a favour. It is entirely down to us: win the game and we will be playing in this competition again in the New Year.”
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