A win is a win no matter how you do it, but Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has called on his side to up their game after barely scraping past Bulgarian minnows PFC Ludogrets at Anfield last evening.
The Reds first Champions League match in five years came close to being spoiled when a late flurry of goals saw them come within moments of drawing with Georgi Dermendzhiev’s feisty side. Mario Balotelli’s first goal in the famous red shirt looked to have handed his side all three points, but the visitors pulled one back in the 90th minute to send their travelling fans into hysterics. It took a moment of madness from Eagles ‘keeper Milan Borjan to set up Gerrard to seal the points from the penalty spot, but 34-year old would rather not have to rely on last minute heroics in the future.
Although there’s been no official update from Liverpool regarding the progress of striker Daniel Sturridge since a thigh injury sidelined him for up to three weeks, reports in the media today have suggested that the 25-year old has returned to training with the club.
Yesterday evening the ex-Chelsea man was forced to watch from the stands as the Reds scraped a 2-1 victory over Bulgarian minnows PFC Ludogrets in the Anfield outfits first Champions League match in five years. Mario Balotelli scored his first goal for the club late in the second half to set up a frantic finish which saw the visitors pull one back before Steven Gerrard secured the points from the penalty spot after fullback Javier Manquillo was up-ended by Ludogrets ‘keeper Milan Borjan.
Liverpool return to the Champions League for the first time in five years when they host Bulgarian side PFC Ludogrets later today at Anfield and Reds defender Dejan Lovren is looking to get off to a winning start as European football returns to Merseyside.
“The Champions League is the Champions League – it’s a big part of football. It’s not the same thing to play for Lyon in the Champions League and for Liverpool. I know Liverpool is a bigger club” he said in a pre-match press conference. “In front of the crowd, it will be something different than the Premier League, especially at home. It will be a massive game. We just need to concentrate and be calm, and to play our game.”
It’s official: ahead of tomorrow’s return to the Champions League, Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson has been named the Reds newest vice-captain.
The 24-year old was famously tipped to leave the club during Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers first season in charge, but after being convinced to stay and fight for his place, the ex-Sunderland man has now come full circle. “Jordan is someone who represents the best values of what we are all about, as a team and as a club,” said boss Brendan Rodgers following the announcement. “Both he and Steven are examples to others in how they conduct themselves on and off the pitch. It’s how they live their lives, it’s how they train and it’s how they approach their work.”
The injury crisis at Liverpool is starting to abate somewhat with Slovakian defender Martin Skrtel able to rejoin the group in training, but the Reds bow in this seasons Champions League comes a bit too soon for the experienced defender with boss Brendan Rodgers confirming that he’ll miss out on tomorrow’s match.
The big center-half has missed both the win away to Tottenham Hotspur and the 1-0 loss to Aston Villa at Anfield on Saturday, and even though he’s back and training again, the Northern Irishman isn’t about to risk him when PFC Ludogrets visit Merseyside later today. “It’s probably too early for this game but after a good week’s training he should be ready for West Ham he said in his pre-match press conference. “Apart from that, we’re pretty much the same in terms of injuries.”