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Trusting Liverpool squad was right call, says Brendan Rodgers

By Carl Markham

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes his squad of players more than validated his controversial team selection for the Champions League defeat against Real Madrid. The Reds boss was so pleased by some of the individual performances in the 1-0 defeat in the Bernabeu - far from the rout some were predicting - he warned those who had been rested they were not guaranteed of a return against Premier League leaders Chelsea on Saturday.

Rodgers was berated from all sides for omitting the likes of Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson in the eight changes he made but his second-string acquitted themselves well.

They even managed to end Cristiano Ronaldo's hot goalscoring streak which was brought to a halt at 12, although part of that was down to an uncharacteristic lack of sharpness in the penalty area.

They could not prevent striker Karim Benzema from converting Marcelo's far-post cross midway through the first half, however, but Rodgers was bullish afterwards.

"I have to put my trust in the squad because we brought a lot of players in during the summer," he said.

"I thought the players were outstanding; Kolo Toure and Lucas Leiva were excellent, Adam Lallana got better as the game went on and Fabio Borini showed his intensity at the top of the field.

"It gave me great food for thought and all those who weren't playing aren't guaranteed a spot against Chelsea."

Speculation about the strength of the team - or lack of - in the run up to the game had seen Rodgers come under fire and when the team was announced others waded in with former England striker Gary Lineker saying it was "not befitting of a club of Liverpool's stature".

Asked for a response to Lineker's criticism, Rodgers said: "Gary is a figure who I respect and was a top player in his day but he's never been a manager so he has never truly understood what it is like in terms of picking players.

"I respect his opinion but I think the words were played out by my team.

"The performance was far from throwing the white towel in.

"Right to the very end my players put in a performance befitting of the wonderful club this is. That would be my answer."

Leaving out the likes of Gerrard was a big call by Rodgers but he said the players took it in their stride.

"The players were fine, there was no issue. They all understood and respected the choice," he said.

"There is a squad to use and I am very fortunate I have a group of honest players and they know a name is irrelevant to me - it is not about big names being left out, it is about players playing well whether they are young or old.

"I spoke to Steven over a week ago and told him my plan for the next number of games and he is a true professional."

Meanwhile, defender Toure claims being written off against Real Madrid was just the motivation Liverpool's fringe players needed to prove they can provide viable alternatives for boss Rodgers.

Toure said: "People were saying we had no chance against Real Madrid but that gave us motivation," said Ivory Coast international Toure.

"When you don't play a lot and a manager gives you a chance to show what you can do you give everything you have got.

"That is what happened and that's the way we need to play in every game now. We all showed the manager we will fight.

"I know we lost but I am very happy because we played a really good game. As a team, we worked so hard and I am really proud of the boys. We could have got a draw out of it."

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