Boss: Early start can benefit us

Brendan Rodgers believes the early start of competitive football for his side in the Europa League can have an advantageous impact heading into the opening of the Barclays Premier League season.

The boss leads the Reds back into Europe in Belarus on Thursday for the first leg of the third qualifying round clash with FC Gomel, and he insists it is a great step-up in fitness for his players.

“We are still finding our fitness and our match fitness, but of course I think playing these games helps us and will give us that edge going into the beginning of this season,” Rodgers told Liverpoolfc.com.

“Players at this level are competitive so they love the competition. Even though we are still gaining fitness it’s a competitive game and it’s a tournament we would like to do well in.

“It’s a bit of a hike and we’ve got to get on our travels again, but that’s life and you’ve just got to get on with it. We are looking forward to the game and hopefully it will serve us well for the beginning of the season.”

In terms of his priorities for Liverpool this season, Rodgers insists the Premier League remains the No.1 focus.

He added: “I don’t want to disrespect the competition (Europa League) but there’s no doubt the league is our priority and we want to finish as high as we possibly can.

“The Europa League is a competition we’d like to do well in. Obviously to do well in it you’ve got to play a lot of games and hopefully that will be the case, as when you play for Liverpool every tournament and every game is a priority.

“I never look too further than the next game and that is Belarus on Thursday and we are looking forward to it.”

Besides the clash with FC Gomel being Rodgers’ first competitive game in charge of the Reds, it also marks his first outing as a manager in Europe.

He said: “It’s great because it takes me into Europe as a manager for the first time. I’ve obviously coached younger teams all across the world and the reality is the tactics don’t really change so much¬† –¬† the difference being there are pressures on the game because it’s at senior level, but it’s great for me because every manager needs a start.

“In my early years as manager so far I’ve loved every minute and now this is the next challenge to go into Europe, and to lead a team like Liverpool is fantastic.”

The challenge of facing FC Gomel represents something of a trip into the unknown but Rodgers and his backroom staff are well prepared on what to expect in Belarus.

He added: “We have done our homework on them. They have done well to qualify for this stage, the pitch looks nice, they play a 4-2-3-1 system but for us it’s always what we do ourselves and that is always my focus.

“I always respect the opponent we play and never underestimate them but I’m a big believer in focusing on our own game and maximising how we play the game. If we do that then I believe throughout the course of the season we’ll have a chance of winning every game.”

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