Liverpool look to rekindle spirit of Olympiakos in must-win Champions League game

Brendan Rodgers’ team will make knock-out phase if they beat Swiss champions

Basel’s Ivan Ivanov and Marek Suchy½ battle with Liverpool’s Lazar Markovic during their  Champions League Group B clash  in October. Photograph: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Basel’s Ivan Ivanov and Marek Suchy½ battle with Liverpool’s Lazar Markovic during their Champions League Group B clash in October. Photograph: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

 

Brendan Rodgers has claimed Liverpool have shown Champions League quality this season and can handle the pressure of a must-win game against Basel to clinch a place in the knockout phase.

Liverpool host the Swiss champions at Anfield knowing only three points will preserve their place among the European elite, while Paulo Sousa’s team must avoid defeat to advance along with the group winners, Real Madrid.

Liverpool have not won in four Champions League matches and required a stoppage-time penalty from Steven Gerrard against Ludogorets to secure their only win in Group B so far.

Better equipped

“We deservedly qualified for this great competition because of our performances and now we are in it we want to do well,” he said.

“From when the draw was made we saw ourselves as a team that could come out of the group and nothing has changed. We have won a game and disappointed in some of the others but the bottom line is it is about [this] game. I think the players have shown they’ve got the qualities for this level.

“The beauty is, without being fantastic this season, we still have a chance to qualify and we have the ability to do it. Maybe the confidence has been affected with changes, with players going and with injuries but we still have talent and a great collective spirit and hopefully that combination will take us through.”

Liverpool face Basel 10 years and a day since overcoming Olympiakos in a final, must-win group game that sent Rafael Benitez’s team towards the club’s fifth European Cup triumph in Istanbul.

Rodgers has not discounted a similar tale unfolding should Liverpool produce a repeat against Sousa’s side.

“Once you get through the group stage anything can happen,” he added.

“I know come February, when it starts again, we will be a better team because of the players we’ll have available if we manage to get through.

“We have seen that the best team doesn’t always win the competition.

“You can get a good draw, a bit of luck and, as I’ve said, we will have a good side that can do well come February, I am sure.”

Sousa, whom Rodgers replaced at Swansea City in 2010, said: “The pressure is all on Liverpool. We both know the reality. This is a historic club that has everything around it – the investment, the quality of players – and the pressure is on them.”

All-or-nothing

“The players know the pressures of the game,” Rodgers said. “They know their responsibilities and I do as manager of this great club. It will be a patient game and we know we have the quality and the support to get over the line.”

With striker Mario Balotelli (groin) still not fit, Fabio Borini could earn a recall to the bench — having been omitted on Saturday against Sunderland — as back-up for Rickie Lambert. Centre-back Mamadou Sakho trained with the squad in their open session but is unlikely to make the starting line-up after a long lay-off with a thigh injury. Guardian Service

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