Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has seen at first hand how captain Steven Gerrard bounces back from "hard moments" and the midfielder will be looking to make up for a double disappointment this weekend.
The 34-year-old, left on the bench for the Champions League defeat to Real Madrid in the Bernabeu, will be the centre of attention in the run-up to tomorrow’s visit of unbeaten Premier League leaders Chelsea.
Repeats of his slip which allowed Demba Ba to score at Anfield in April and set in motion the beginning of the end of the club’s title dream will be replayed on television screens throughout the country, and Chelsea fans will regularly remind him with a song they invented to mark the occasion.
It turned out to be a pivotal moment not only in the season but also in the club’s history as they fell agonisingly short of winning their first championship for 24 years.
However, it has not been spoken of since at the club’s Melwood training ground.
“I think it was probably more for you guys (the media). It was just an unfortunate thing for me,” said Rodgers, who revealed Gerrard had a scan on a hamstring before the squad flew out to Madrid on Monday.
“It shows you the character of Steven. He has demonstrated that through his career.
“He has had hard moments in his career and he always respondsmagnificently — there was no blame.
“He was instrumental in our run last year, he is a big character and bounces back from that.”
Having been restricted to just 20 minutes as a substitute in Liverpool’s midweek glamour fixture, Gerrard is set to return to the starting line up along with a number of the seven who were left out at the Bernabeu.
The rights and wrongs of Rodgers’ team in Madrid have been debated extensively since but he has brushed aside the controversy.
“I know there has been a bit of criticism for the selection but I think it is a disservice to the team that played,” he added.
“The idea was to make sure we stayed in the game for 60-65 minutes and then open up the game with the quality of Steven’s passing, Raheem Sterling’s speed and Phil Coutinho’s creativity but we couldn’t get a goal.
“I don’t look so much into it because any criticism that comes is part of what you take as a manager, but I didn’t think it was fair to call Kolo Toure, Lucas Leiva or Adam Lallana a reserve player.
“Those boys put in a great performance and they deserved more praise as opposed to the criticism which came.
“I don’t have to justify it, the players justified it the other night.
“Managers up and down the country are dealing in the reality of being a manager; it is not fantasy football, it is not on sentiment or on a computer, when we are picking teams we are dealing with the reality of players and their physical condition and tactics going into the game.
“It was probably hard for you guys, you are not privy to some of the information I have so you probably wouldn’t have known Steven had a scan on his hamstring on the Monday before we travelled out. But it was always in the plan (for him to be left out) where he was at in terms of his games.
“Those players who did play certainly didn’t do themselves any harm. For all of them it was a great opportunity.”
Rodgers’ selection has piled the pressure on ahead of the visit of a Chelsea side, that while imperious in the Premier League, have looked somewhat laboured in the Champions League.
Jose Mourinho’s men missed the chance to secured qualification for the last 16 after a 1-1 draw against Maribor on Wednesday night and full-back Branislav Ivanovic says improvement will be necessary to emerge from Anfield with their unbeaten record intact.
“We know how our performance has to be to get the points from Liverpool away,” Ivanovic said.
“I think if we play against Liverpool as we played against Maribor, we know it is not possible (to get any points).
“Of course this was a warning to the team and this is good.
“We should have finished the group, but now it’s too late and we have to think about the next games in the Champions League.”
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