Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers welcomes return to scene of 6-1 defeat

By: | Published: August 7, 2015 11:05 PM

An opening fixture at Stoke City, where Liverpool were humiliated 6-1 at the end of last season, is the best possible place to start the new campaign, manager Brendan Rodgers said on Friday.

An opening fixture at Stoke City, where Liverpool were humiliated 6-1 at the end of last season, is the best possible place to start the new campaign, manager Brendan Rodgers said on Friday.

He takes his team there on Sunday having lost captain Steven Gerrard and England international Raheem Sterling, but believing the new-look squad can make amends for one of the worst days in the club’s recent history.

“For me it was the perfect fixture for us first up,” Rodgers told reporters at Liverpool’s Melwood training ground.

“I was happy that came out. We will certainly be better than we were last season.

“We lacked in everything that day. We all knew it was unacceptable and whatever stick we got for it was deserved.”

Some of the criticism that followed was from Liverpool supporters claiming that sixth place after finishing as runners-up the previous year meant Rodgers should be sacked.

Instead the American owners kept faith with him and changes were made to his coaching staff, two of whom were sacked.

“It has galvanised the players with three coaches coming in,” Rodgers said.

“You can’t perform like we did it the end of last season if you want to be a top club. There is no difference now in terms of pressure. This has always been a club under huge scrutiny.

“Our first objective is to arrive in the top four. We’ll look to put up a greater fight than last season. We’ve had a very good pre-season and I’ve been delighted with the response from the players.”

Increasing the number of goals scored from last season’s paltry 52 is a priority and the manager is convinced that Christian Benteke, a 32.5 million pounds ($50.15 million) signing from Aston Villa, backed up by Danny Ings and Roberto Firmino, will help achieve that.

“Benteke is the type who fits perfectly for us,” Rodgers said.

“He can play the power game and his movement is very clever.”

Rodgers also announced that another new signing, James Milner from Manchester City, has been appointed vice-captain to fellow England international Jordan Henderson.

“He is someone I admired from the outside for a long time.

“He’s also got big character and a big mentality, and I felt we needed that in the team.”

Rodgers, starting his third season in charge at Anfield, refused to be drawn on the future of maverick striker Mario Balotelli.

“It’s unfair to talk about any individuals,” he said.  ($1 = 0.6480 pounds)

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