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Liverpool FC goalkeeper Pepe Reina insisted his team will have little trouble adjusting their targets after results on Matchday 5 confirmed their transfer from the giddy heights of the UEFA Champions League to the unknown pastures of the UEFA Europa League.
The Premier League side secured the victory they required at Group E rivals Debreceni VSC, triumphing 1-0 courtesy of David Ngog's fourth-minute effort, but ACF Fiorentina's victory over Olympique Lyonnais in Florence meant the Serie A outfit will go on to grace the last 16 along with their French opponents. For Liverpool, European champions as recently as 2005, losses to both those clubs proved costly, as did Lyon's last-gasp leveller in France last time out, and they must now test the waters of the UEFA Europa League when its maiden season enters the knockout phase in February.
"Of course we're disappointed because this is a big competition that we've done well in for the last three or four years," said Reina, who featured for the Merseysiders when they lost the 2007 final to AC Milan. "Now we're out, though. It's a tough competition and it's not always possible to get out of the group stage. The Europa League is another competition for us and we want to win it. It also has strong teams and it will be nice to play in it. It's already become a target. It'll be tough because there are so many good teams involved, but we have to look forward and keep trying to win."
Reina and Co also have the perfect opportunity to bounce back from disappointment on Sunday when they host bitter city rivals Everton – themselves eager for success in the UEFA Europa League. "To beat Everton is always huge, especially for the fans," explained the 27-year-old. "We'll be trying because we also need to win in the league and in the race for fourth place." Indeed, Rafael Benítez's charges lie seventh in England, 13 points shy of pacesetters Chelsea FC, though having recorded only their second success in eleven outings may provide some small measure of encouragement. "We haven't had too many of those recently," added Reina. "We have to move on and keep fighting."
The former Villarreal CF No1 is likewise confident that the club's fans will maintain their unwavering support, despite the obvious blow of slipping out of contention for the continent's most prestigious club trophy. "I don't need to tell them anything because they already know we always play 100 per cent," he said. "They will trust us, they will support us, they will be behind us and that's why they are Liverpool supporters."
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