LIVERPOOL boss Brendan Rodgers has urged his players to grasp the chance to write their own chapter of European history when the Reds face a date with destiny against FC Basel at Anfield tonight.
The Anfield club’s mission is clear as only a win will see Liverpool join Group B runaway leaders and reigning European champions Real Madrid in the Champions League knockout phase, no other results or permutations matter.
It is ten years to the day since Liverpool’s do-or-die clash with Greek outfit Olympiacos in 2004 when Rafa Benitez’s side required victory by two clear goals to secure their passage to the last 16.
Skipper Steven Gerrard played a pivotal role that night and scored the critical third goal, which laid the foundations for Liverpool’s epic win in the final against AC Milan in Istanbul, although Rodgers insists the burden cannot weigh squarely on his captain’s shoulders.
“It is an opportunity for the players now to qualify and make sure they write themselves into folklore by winning the game and ensuring they get into the next round, because that is the objective,” said Rodgers.
“This is a competition which has a great history here for Liverpool and the Olympiacos game was part of that. For us to get a result tonight we need the team to be performing well.
“In terms of Steven, we can’t be just reliant solely on him, this has to be about a team performance. We need other players to step up to the mark, taking on responsibility and be a catalyst and not place it on him.
“There are few world class players around so when you are in a team that responsibility falls even more so on you but it has never been about that for us.”
Italy striker Mario Balotelli remains doubtful for the showdown with a groin injury, while centre-half Mamadou Sakho falls into the same category despite returning to train following a thigh problem, so Rickie Lambert is set to continue spearheading the Liverpool attack.
Rodgers expects the Swiss champions to be guarded in defence and show limited enterprise going forward, and the former Swansea manager believes his side must show restraint and composure on what could prove a nervy evening.
“We know we don’t need to win the game in the first minute, that is key for us,” added Rodgers. “European football is technical and tactical, we just need to win the game and for us we have 90 minutes-plus to do that.
“Basel don’t need to win the game, they can sit back, so we need to be able to move the ball side to side with freedom and if we get patience from the team that should help us go and get the result we want.
“If we get through we can put it to bed for a few months, and hopefully it will give us that confidence in our league form.”