Liverpool seek to bounce back in trip to Scotland

Reds captain confident club can bounce back from their surprise 3-0 defeat by West Brom when they face Scottish Cup holders Hearts

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 1:13am


Liverpool can put the disappointment of their opening Premier League game under new coach Brendan Rodgers behind them when they head north of the border to face Hearts in their Europa League play-off first leg today.

The Anfield club suffered a humbling 3-0 defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, leaving Rodgers to insist that he will need time to turn their fortunes around.

The pressure will be very much on if they slip up against the Scottish Cup holders in Edinburgh, but captain Steven Gerrard is confident that Liverpool can get back on track.

"It's important that the likes of myself and the other experienced players take responsibility for a poor defeat," he told the Liverpool Echo.

"We have to put it behind us. We've got to dust ourselves down and bounce back against Hearts. We have to react in the right manner and look to put things right in the coming games."

It would be a huge shock if Liverpool - who edged out Gomel of Belarus in the third qualifying round - failed to come through this two-legged tie and take a place in the group stage of the competition.

Rodgers has taken a gamble by resting Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson for the match.

In the past a "Battle of Britain" clash would be regarded as a must-win match but the Premier League is very much top priority for Liverpool these days.

And, with a testing fixture against champions Manchester City looming on Sunday, Rodgers has opted not to risk Gerrard, star striker Suarez and key defenders Skrtel and Johnson.

"That's the way you've got to look at it," Liverpool assistant manager Colin Pascoe told his club's website.

A year ago the Jam Tarts lost 5-0 at home to Tottenham Hotspur at the same stage of the competition, while on Saturday they were held to a 2-2 draw at home by 10-man Inverness in the Scottish Premier League. "It's a totally different kettle of fish, playing against Liverpool, and we'll have to rise to the challenge," said Hearts manager John McGlynn.

"They're obviously a fantastic football club. They suffered a 3-0 defeat themselves on Saturday but only time will tell whether that is an advantage or disadvantage to us."

Elsewhere, Newcastle United will face Greek club Atromitos in Athens. Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, who saw his side beat Tottenham 2-1 in their Premier League opener at the weekend, is likely to rest key players with Saturday's trip to Chelsea in mind, while Hatem Ben Arfa is suspended.

"The fact we will have to juggle our playing staff for the Premier League and the Europa League fixtures means we have to take a bit of a gamble with our chances of progressing in Europe," said Pardew. "There isn't a lot of money in it, not unless you win the thing. Not compared to the Premier League. I am still, of course, looking forward to the challenge. You want to pit your wits against other nationalities, other managers with different types of football."

Scotland's Motherwell face Spain's Levante, who are competing in Europe for the first time, last season's runners-up Athletic Bilbao face HJK Helsinki, and Inter Milan face Romania's Vaslui.

Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart face Dinamo Moscow, whose line-up includes former Germany striker Kevin Kuranyi.

And big-spending Russians Anzhi Makhachkala, coached by Dutchman Guus Hiddink, face Holland's AZ Alkmaar.