Brendan Rodgers has responded to criticism of his team selection for the Champions League clash with Real Madrid, insisting the players he picked deserve more credit for their performance.
Rodgers left the likes of Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho and Mario Balotelli on the bench for the 1-0 defeat in the Bernabeu, but maintains he was happy with his sides performance at the home of the reigning European champions.
“I put out the best team that I thought could get a result,” said Rodgers. “My players were magnificent. I know there is a little bit of criticism about the selection, but it does a disservice to the players who played.
“We went into a game against the best team in the world at the moment with a plan and the idea was to make sure we stayed in the game and then in the last 20-25 minutes open up the game.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t get a goal, but I was proud of the players as were the supporters. You take criticism as a manager, but for the players I didn’t think it was fair.
“To call Kolo Toure a reserve or Lucas Leiva or Adam Lallana a reserve player … I felt they deserved more praise.”
Rodgers was accused of betraying Liverpool’s rich European heritage with his team selection, but said: “It doesn’t affect me. I focus on my job and I make decisions for the best interest for Liverpool Football Club.
“What is befitting for this club is making sure we keep it at the highest level it can be. That means ensuring we are playing in the Champions League every season.”
And the Northern Irishman also argued he was not under any more pressure to beat Chelsea on Saturday because of the changes.
“I don’t have to (beat them), no,” he added. “The players justified the team I picked. They played very, very well. For managers up and down the country, we are dealing in the reality. It is not fantasy football or sentiment or picking players from a computer.
“We have to deal with reality of players and their physical conditions and tactics going into games.
“We have seen teams this week who have not made any changes and still lost.”