The biggest surprise is that Daniel Agger is not even in the squad. With Rodgers naming virtually a full strength team, it must mean that the Dane is paying the price for his abject recent performances.
I can't remember a time in the past when Agger was dropped from the team for poor performance, so this is a major turn up for the books. It's definitely the right decision though, and it's good to see Rodgers showing some balls.
Lucas and Jonjo Shelvey are also dropped to the bench after the West Brom debacle, with Joe Allen and Raheem Sterling coming back into the team:
FULL TEAM: Reina, Johnson, Enrique, Carragher, Skrtel, Allen, Henderson, Gerrard, Sterling, Downing, Suarez.
SUBS: Jones, Coates, Lucas, Borini, Shelvey, Suso, Wisdom.
Liverpool legend John Aldridge believes the Reds are in for a tough game, but is confident the team can come away with a good result. He told the Liverpool Echo:
"It will be very tough to come back from Russia with a positive result, but we have the personnel capable of getting a result against Zenit St Petersburg, even with Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho both cup-tied. We still have the squad capable of getting a result – as we have already proved in testing away assignments at Young Boys and Udinese"
Jan Molby is a bit more confident than Aldo, and fully expects Liverpool to get a good result. He told The Chester Chronicle:
"It won’t be easy in the freezing conditions in Russia but Zenit haven’t played competitively since December due to their winter break. I believe Liverpool will take full advantage. Our form has been good recently and over the two legs I expect us to get past them. We are capable of getting a decent result over there and then finishing the job off at Anfield".
Prior to the game, Ian Ayre expressed concern about the prospect of racist abuse during the game, and when asked about the possibility, Rodgers said:
"If anything untoward happens, us as a group will always do everything we can to support the player or players that may happen to. If there’s an issue in the game it will be something that will very much unite the group"
Totally off-topic, but Rodgers' rhetoric really bugs me, especially his constant reference to the players as 'the group'.
Back on topic: if there is any racism during the game, I sincerely hope the players decide to stop playing and walk off the pitch. Screw UEFA, FIFA and their laissez-faire approach to racism; the only thing that will make a difference is direct action, and why should LFC continue playing if the team encounters racist abuse?
If football's governing bodies weren't so gutless and actually dealt with racism in the harshest possible way, then perhaps it wouldn't be such a massive issue in the modern game. I will fully support the players if they decide to walk off the pitch in the face of racism, but I suspect that Rodgers will instruct them to continue playing.
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