Liverpool coach Brendan Rodgers defended his team selection as Liverpool lost 1-0 to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday thanks to a first half strike from Karim Benzema. The Reds boss left Steven Gerrard, Mario Balotelli, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho and Glen Johnson on the bench at the Bernabeu, opting to start Lazar Markovic, Javier Manquillo, Fabio Borini, Emre Can and Adam Lallana instead. Rodgers was widely criticized for the move, as many felt he was forfeiting the game against Real in favor of resting his starters for Saturday’s Premier League clash with Chelsea.
“We knew we had a real tough game tonight, but I didn’t rest players for Saturday,” Rodgers insisted. “I picked what I thought could maybe – on the back on Saturday’s [1-0 loss] against Newcastle – get the result for us tonight, and I think the performance showed that.” He added: “We showed great courage. The players that came into the team were excellent and we were unfortunate not to get a result against a team that is the leading team in the world at the moment.”
The loss left Liverpool third in UCL Group A with three points from four games, three points behind second-place Basel, which beat Ludogorets 4-0 on Tuesday. The Reds travel to Bulgaria to face Ludogorets on Nov 26 before hosting Basel on Dec 9 and need to win both games to progress from the group phase. Real, perfect through four games, has already qualified and most likely, topped the group.