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R. Standard de Liège coach László Bölöni says Liverpool FC "will have to play below their usual level, while we will have to play above ours" if they are to defeat the five-time winners in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round.
Standard welcome Liverpool to their Maurice Dufrasne Stadium fresh from lifting the Belgian Super Cup at the same venue with a 3-1 win against RSC Anderlecht on Saturday. But Bölöni, who is aiming to take Standard into the group stage for the first time after succeeding title-winning coach Michel Preud'homme this summer, knows that his team are underdogs against a club who have proved UEFA Champions League specialists in recent seasons. "My first reaction to the draw was, 'Damn'," Bölöni said. "The confrontation with Liverpool will not be a matter of details, but of extremes. They will have to play below their usual level, while we will have to play above ours. Everything will have to go our way."
Even the weekend victory does not encourage the coach, especially as Saturday's two-goal hero Oguchi Onyewu is suspended, striker Milan Jovanović has a groin problem, Wenze Kabamba has twisted his knee and Grégory Dufer is still suffering from a thigh injury. "The way we played against Anderlecht is not enough against Liverpool," Bölöni said. "I saw some defensive naïvity which we cannot allow against opponents like them." Better news for Standard is that midfielder Marouane Fellaini is back from the Olympics and attacker Dieudonné Mbokani has returned from his father's funeral.
Liverpool have come through qualifying to reach the last four group stages, and their hopes of making it five have been boosted with the news that captain Steven Gerrard has travelled to Belgium after recovering from a thigh strain. Andriy Voronin has given himself a chance of selection with his fine pre-season form, though new signing Robbie Keane and UEFA EURO 2008™ hero Fernando Torres are the most likely starters up front.
Rafael Benítez, who is without injured defenders Martin Škrtel, Fábio Aurélio and Philipp Degen, is not underestimating Standard and would just be happy to be in a decent position ahead of the return at Anfield in a fortnight. The Liverpool manager said: "We will try to win if that is possible because a good result for us is to win. But if that is not possible then the very least we will be looking for is an away goal. We have watched videos of Standard and had reports on them but it is so early in the season that it is not easy to know how they will play, especially as they have a player who has returned from the Olympics for this game."
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