The Reds manager’s decision to leave out several key players was met with astonishment, with Jose Mourinho particularly bemused
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers defended his team selection for the Champions League clash with Real Madrid, insisting playing such a young side was not tantamount to ‘forfeiting’ the game.
Rodgers left several of his established players on the bench, including captain Steven Gerrard, Mario Balotelli, Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson.
In came the likes of Javier Manquillo, Lucas Leiva and Fabio Borini to face the reigning European champions and a side who have won all of their last 11 games in all competitions.
Rodgers, however, was adamant his players could pull off a surprise in the Santiago Bernabeu, telling ITV: “I think we’ve got a strong team out for the game.
“We’re certainly not forfeiting the game in any way, we’ve got nine full internationals playing and two Under-21 internationals.
“So we’ve actually got a strong team.
“Our last game that we won was against Swansea City and a lot of these players played in that game.”
When was asked if he was prioritising Saturday’s game against Chelsea, he replied: “The Premier League and Champions League are two big competitions for us.
“Obviously our form this season has been nowhere near the level we’ve set over [the last] 18 months.
“It’s probably hard to pick what our best team will be at the moment.
“But certainly, we arrive at the game this evening knowing we’ve got some very good players and, like I said, a lot of the players that won in our last game that played very well against Swansea, they get an opportunity tonight.”
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho was asked about Rodgers’ team selection at a press conference ahead of his side’s clash with Maribor on Wednesday and could not resist a sly dig.
“If one day I go to a game and I don’t feel I can win, maybe I don’t go,” said the Portuguese.
“So, normally, against the most difficult opponents, I will try to go with my best team. But who knows? Liverpool might play a fantastic match and win and rest players and the players are in great condition to play against Chelsea. In this case it might be a genius decision. In football it is difficult to comment.”