Brendan Rodgers says his improving Liverpool FC side are ready to take the next step as they visit Italy knowing only a win at eliminated Udinese Calcio will guarantee progress.
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Manager Brendan Rodgers has called on Liverpool FC to "keep moving forwards" as the improving Reds seek the win they need to guarantee a place in the UEFA Europa League knockout rounds at eliminated Udinese Calcio.
Rodgers has overseen a difficult transition since arriving at Anfield from Swansea City AFC in the summer, his commitment to a pressing, passing game taking time to permeate onto the pitch. Yet in recent weeks there have been signs that his energetic style – featuring several youthful protagonists – is bearing fruit. On Thursday, in northern Italy, Liverpool have the chance to prove it.
"We're looking to play a certain style, a style accustomed to Liverpool and their great history," said the 39-year-old. "Pass and move, work as a collective unit – that is Liverpool, and we're looking to repeat what has happened in that great history." That past includes continental success, with five European Cups and three UEFA Cups; Rodgers knows only victory will keep alive hopes of adding to that this term.
"We'd be bitterly disappointed if we went out," he said, quickly eschewing talk of the scenario whereby, if third-placed BSC Young Boys failed to win, Liverpool would advance with a point. "It's important for us to be focused on getting the win. I believe we will get the result which sees us qualify and keep up the momentum. Our job is to keep moving forwards, day by day, game by game; a win would give us another chance to do so."
Rodgers will be shorn of the ill Steven Gerrard, so often the Reds' talisman on nights like these over the past decade. But the manager believes he has the squad to cope, led by a "world-class operator" in Luis Suárez. Udinese have one of their own in striker Antonio Di Natale, who will equal Valerio Bertotto's Udinese record of 33 appearances in UEFA club competition if he plays. He is keen to do so, explaining that "when you play at this level, every game is beautiful".
Coach Francesco Guidolin is likely to use his big-name players sparingly, though, with Udinese's European ambitions over for another season. He spoke of pride amid despair, however, and there may be plenty of the former on show in front of the Stadio Friuli faithful. Rodgers is expecting it, saying: "
We have everything to play for. Udinese are out, but they will play for pride and their country. It doesn't make it any easier."