BRENDAN RODGERS HOPES that Liverpool’s early start to the season could benefit them in the long run.
The Reds tackle FC Gomel in the Europa League tonight, becoming the first Premier League side to play a competitive game in 2012-13, and the Irishman is relishing his first full match in charge of the club.
“We are still finding our fitness and our match fitness, but of course I think playing these games helps us and will give us that edge going into the beginning of this season,” Rodgers told Liverpool’s official website.
“Players at this level are competitive so they love the competition. Even though we are still gaining fitness it’s a competitive game and it’s a tournament we would like to do well in.
“It’s a bit of a hike and we’ve got to get on our travels again, but that’s life and you’ve just got to get on with it. We are looking forward to the game and hopefully it will serve us well for the beginning of the season.”
Despite targeting Europe success this season, Rodgers insists Liverpool’s primary ambition is to improve in the Premier League.
“I don’t want to disrespect the (Europa League) but there’s no doubt the league is our priority and we want to finish as high as we possibly can,” he said. ”The Europa League is a competition we’d like to do well in. Obviously to do well in it you’ve got to play a lot of games and hopefully that will be the case, as when you play for Liverpool every tournament and every game is a priority.
“I never look too (much) further than the next game and that is Belarus on Thursday and we are looking forward to it. It’s great because it takes me into Europe as a manager for the first time,” Rodgers continued. ”I’ve obviously coached younger teams all across the world and the reality is the tactics don’t really change so much – the difference being there are pressures on the game because it’s at senior level, but it’s great for me because every manager needs a start.
“In my early years as manager so far I’ve loved every minute and now this is the next challenge to go into Europe, and to lead a team like Liverpool is fantastic.”
Gomel finished third in the Belorussian league last season and, while many fans may not know much about them, the 39-year-old feels suitably prepared. He said: “We have done our homework on them. They have done well to qualify for this stage, the pitch looks nice, they play a 4-2-3-1 system but for us it’s always what we do ourselves and that is always my focus.”