The Big Match

Reds short of goals and time

Ahead of Man Utd clash, Rodgers laments lack of preparation, with Liverpool misfiring

LONDON • Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has lamented the lack of time he has had to prepare for "the biggest derby game in the history" of the Premier League.

His side face fierce rivals Manchester United today, with both teams eager to avoid a second defeat so early in the season. But the Northern Irishman conceded that the build-up to the clash could have been better.

"This is the biggest derby game in the history of the league - winning a game like this can give you a psychological boost," he said yesterday. "This game comes on the back of the international break, so we've had virtually no time to work with the players."

United assistant manager and former scourge of Liverpool Ryan Giggs, however, believes the fixture has come at a great time for Louis van Gaal's men.

"Liverpool is the perfect game to come back to after the international break," he said at a supporters' event this week. "Old Trafford will be bouncing for a late kick-off. All the players are looking forward to it and I'm sure the fans are, too.

"Liverpool is always a special game and it's even more special when you win, so we can't wait."

It could be a particularly memorable debut for Anthony Martial, who signed from Monaco on transfer deadline day for a reported initial fee of £36 million (S$78.5 million) that could rise to £58 million.

The 19-year-old striker will be expected to enliven an attack that has scored only three goals in four league games.

Van Gaal, however, warned against expecting too much too soon from the France international.

"I can imagine that the fans shall think £50 million he has to score. No, he is 19 and he has to adapt. It is very difficult to adapt. You have seen how (Angel) di Maria struggled and he is 27. (Radamel) Falcao was 29," the United manager said yesterday. "At Manchester United the pressure is much higher than (at) another club, so I don't think we have to put too much pressure on him."

Liverpool are also short of goals, having netted only twice so far this season, and there will be pressure on both sets of players to perform.

At the back, Dejan Lovren will be looking to bounce back from his horror performance in the 0-3 defeat by West Ham on Aug 29.

Rodgers refused to single out the defender for blame and backed him to come good at Old Trafford.

"Dejan knows we performed below the level in that game (against West Ham)," he said. "He knows he made a mistake but it was about the collective. In his first three games this season Dejan showed he has the quality and the consistency to perform well. Now he has to show character, I'm sure he'll do that."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2015, with the headline 'Reds short of goals and time'. Print Edition | Subscribe