Belfast Telegraph

Champions League assist record gives me ammo for Liverpool dressing room banter: Milner

By Carl Markham

Liverpool midfielder James Milner thinks - at the age of 32 - he is finally changing perceptions of him as he tops the table of Champions League assists this season.

The Reds vice-captain has created seven of the 28 goals Jurgen Klopp's side have scored in Europe despite just 341 minutes of pitch time.

That is three better than team-mate Roberto Firmino, Paris St Germain forward Neymar, Manchester City's Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard of Chelsea - all of whom have played at least 100 minutes more.

It has become something of a joke within the Liverpool squad but for Milner it is just an extension of what he feels he has done throughout his career, only no one has paid any attention until now.

"I've been mentioning it? I think it's more the other way around to be honest," he said ahead of the visit of Porto, who are seeking to become the first team in the competition's history to overturn a 5-0 first-leg deficit.

"There has been a bit of banter about it. It's nice to have, it helps me shut down any arguments if there is any banter going on in the dressing room. I just want to contribute. Throughout my career I've managed to create goals for the team I have played at.

"That's a strength of mine even though I am seen as a bit of a workhorse who runs around. Throughout the years I have created a few goals. Hopefully I keep doing that."

As one of the most experienced players in the dressing room Milner has seen Klopp's relatively young squad evolve as the season has progressed.

Now, with one foot in the quarter-finals, the former England midfielder believes they have to consider the prospect of winning the competition for the sixth time.

"Yes, I think we are getting closer. We are improving all the time since I've been here," he said. "Moving forward we are an exciting team to watch. I think we are learning to manage games better than we have done. That maturity is coming through.

"At this stage you need to have belief that you can win it, although still take it a game at a time. We have proved over the last few years we can beat anyone on our day but it is about being consistent, learning from the mistakes you've made and not looking too far ahead."

Klopp will resist the urge to rest key players and will probably only make up to three changes, fitness and illness permitting.

"We respect Porto too much," he said. "We only use players in the best shape and if there is a different line-up to Saturday it is because we want to win."

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