Liverpool will take on Real Madrid which have won their last 11 matches in all competitions.
Liverpool see Tuesday’s Champions League game at holders Real Madrid as a chance to prove their doubters wrong and get their season back on track, said coach Brendan Rodgers and midfielder Jordan Henderson.
Beaten 1-0 at Newcastle United on Saturday, a fourth defeat in 10 Premier League games this season, Liverpool will take on a Madrid side that have won their last 11 matches in all competitions including a 3-0 Group B success at Anfield.
Real, leaders in La Liga, have a maximum nine Champions League points and can secure a place in the knockout round with victory on Tuesday while Liverpool are in a three-way fight for second spot with Swiss side Basel and Bulgarian outfit Ludogorets.
Rodgers identified a lack of “speed and intensity” compared with last season as one of Liverpool’s weaknesses and urged his players to build on a positive start to the home game against Real as they tackled “a big week”.
“We are not coming here as a team expecting to lose and then look at the other games to qualify,” said Rodgers whose side also host leaders Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday.
“These are big games but we see them as an opportunity,” the Northern Irishman told a news conference at Real’s Bernabeu stadium.
“We started very well in the game (at Anfield). We gave away a goal maybe too early and that gave them confidence and then they got what we would consider two poor goals,” said Rodgers.
“I think we showed in the previous game that we still can have moments when we can hurt the opponent and that will be the idea tomorrow.”
Henderson said he and his team mates had been working on being “more ruthless and more creative in the final third” of the pitch.
“We’ve had a few people criticizing us and we know we’re not at our best yet,” he added.
“It is a great opportunity to prove what we can do and hopefully prove a few people wrong and show people how good we really are.”
After selling top scorer Luis Suarez to Barcelona in the close season, Liverpool have brought in a host of new faces and Rodgers said he and the squad were still going through something of a learning process.
“It’s clear we haven’t reached the speed and intensity in our game that we want,” he explained. “I don’t want to keep talking about giving players time, as a manager you know it’s very hard to come by.
“When you come up against the best, that’s what makes you perform at your best. We know it’s in our hands to qualify and that’s the objective.”
One player taking time to make a mark at Liverpool is Mario Balotelli who joined from AC Milan in the close season and had a spell at Manchester City.
Rodgers said the erratic Italy striker was doing his best and Liverpool could do with a strong performance from the 24-year-old against Real as England forward Daniel Sturridge was unlikely to be fit.
“At this moment in time Mario is working very hard and what we ask of all our players is to do their very best,” the coach added.
“I think he is doing his best. Obviously he hasn’t got the goals he would have liked and we would have liked.
“He just needs to focus on giving his best and working hard for his team mates and the club and that is all we can ask.”