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Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Rodgers wary of Europa League strains

ESPN staff

Brendan Rodgers has suggested the threadbare nature of his Liverpool squad is the reason behind his decision to take a string of youngsters for their Europa League clash with Young Boys.

Rodgers endured a frustrating summer, with players such as Dirk Kuyt and Andy Carroll moving on without being adequately replaced. The Reds have made a poor start to the Premier League season and face a real test against Manchester United at the weekend.

With that game in mind, Rodgers has drafted in the likes of Samed Yesil, Suso, Conor Coady, Andre Wisdom, Adam Morgan, Peter Gulacsi and Dani Pacheco for the trip to Switzerland.

Rodgers is confident the youngsters can cut it at the highest level and has challenged them to take their chance, while admitting his focus is the Premier League.

"There is no doubt the Premier League is our No. 1 priority," the Reds boss said at a press conference. "I have made that clear from the off. But I see it [Europa League] as an opportunity as well. It is a competition we would like to do well in.

"I have brought young players I have seen in the early parts of the season who can come in and contribute. I know they have got talent. But it is whether they can step in to the first team and fight.

"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. 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 cited Tuesday night's clash between Real Madrid versus Manchester City as evidence of the fight he faces.

He said: "I look at Real Madrid v Manchester City. I saw Samir Nasri go off injured. They have a massive squad that can accommodate that. If I lose some of my key players it could make it difficult for the next two or three months.

"So the balance has to be right. We have young players who are exciting and experienced players who are playing a great role for me."

Alongside those youngsters Rodgers also intends to give minutes to members of his squad who are not seeing regular first team action.

"Brad Jones will play. 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."

Meanwhile, Young Boys coach Martin Rueda has told Liverpool their tactic of leaving their big guns at home is a risky one.

"I do not think Liverpool can afford to turn up without their best players," he said. "Especially since they did not shine in the early season, taking just two points from their first four games. That makes me say that we are not far from them. We can embarrass Liverpool."

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