Real Madrid v Liverpool: Brendan Rodgers defends team selection

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Rodgers 'not bothered' by critics

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers defended his team selection for the Champions League loss at Real Madrid after being accused of "throwing in a white towel".

Seven of the Reds' starting XI from the weekend defeat by Newcastle - including Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling - began Tuesday's 1-0 loss on the bench.

"I didn't see this as a big showcase game where I had to play the so-called names," said Rodgers.

"It might have seemed a gamble but for me it wasn't."

When Liverpool's team was announced, Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker said: "Rodgers has left out [Jordan] Henderson, Sterling, [Mario] Balotelli, Gerrard and [Philippe] Coutinho at Real Madrid. He has, though, thrown in a white towel.

"Selecting a weakened side in Europe's premier competition, especially against Real Madrid, is unbefitting of a club of Liverpool's stature. If I were one of Liverpool's star players, I'd be choked to be left out of a game at the Bernabeu against the European champions."

Steven Gerrard and Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli and Steven Gerrard were named as substitutes

Rodgers responded: "I think the performance says the words. 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."

Reports before the match suggested Rodgers would choose to leave Gerrard out in order to ensure he was at peak fitness for the visit of Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday. Liverpool have endured a difficult start to the season, and were beaten 1-0 at Newcastle on Saturday.

But the Liverpool boss insisted: "I didn't rest players for Saturday. I picked a team that I thought could get a result. The players that came in were excellent and we were unfortunate not to get a result."

After hearing Rodgers's response, Lineker tweeted: "Rodgers intimating that many of his players were dropped for being awful at Newcastle rather than being rested. If that's true, fair enough."

Last season, Liverpool were not in Europe and early exits from both domestic cup competitions meant they could field a settled side as they finished second in the Premier League.

But Rodgers says that with more fixtures and more squad members to integrate this term, he had to use competitive matches to help some of his new signings get used to his style of play.

Uefa's rules on team's Champions League participation
Uefa's rules on teams' Champions League participation

"We have seven games in 21 days," he added.

"We are trying to adapt new players into our ways of working and because we do not have as much time for training, we have to look at them and develop them in games at the moment."

Among Liverpool's starters at the Bernabeu was defender Kolo Toure, who has played less than a minute in the Premier League this season, while midfielder Lucas Leiva started for only the fifth time this season. Sterling and Gerrard came on as second-half substitutes.

"We defended very well when we had to against a team that are scoring five or six a game and are the best team in the world at the moment," added Rodgers, whose side were beaten by Karim Benzema's first-half strike.

Uefa's rules for the Champions League require all teams to "field their strongest team throughout the competition", but the governing body will not be taking any action against the Merseysiders for their selection in the Spanish capital.

Reaction to Rodgers's team selection

Spanish TV presenter and former Liverpool player Michael Robinson on Twitter: "Incredible starting 11 for Liverpool. It's one thing to give players rest and another to not respect the contest. I think Rodgers has made a mistake. Thousands of Liverpool fans have come to the Bernabeu to see five key players on the bench. Rodgers has raised the white flag of surrender before the game has started."

Anita Lovren's picture of her daughter at the Bernabeu
Dejan Lovren's wife Anita posted a picture on Instagram of their daughter at the Bernabeu with the caption "Why my daddy doesn't play????"

Daily Telegraph football correspondent Henry Winter on BBC Radio 5 live: "We can spin it either way and say that people like Kolo Toure and Alberto Moreno played well, but Liverpool leave here having slipped another place down the table and they have got to win their next two games. This was not the Liverpool way tonight."

Daily Express reporter Paul Joyce on BBC Radio 5 live: "It's a very brave, some would say foolhardy decision by Brendan Rodgers. It invites a lot of scrutiny and spotlight at a time when things aren't going well. It's a massive call from him. He has made a lot of decisions tonight and he will live or die by them."

Canal Plus and Cuatro presenter Julio Maldonado on Twitter: "Tough to believe it, but Liverpool line up without Gerrard and Sterling. Irrespective of the result, I think a giant club like Liverpool and the greatest competition don't deserve that."

Delfin Melero, Marca: "I don't understand it. The only explanation is that Rodgers has given the game up for lost and wants to keep his starters fresh for the weekend game against Chelsea. They are not coming with confidence about getting something positive from the Bernabeu. Rodgers's selection sends a clear message."

Marcos Lopez, Marca: "Without any English players in the starting line-up, Liverpool were devoid of intensity or passion and greatly damaged their reputation. It looked like a friendly on a summer tour to America."

The Sun and Daily Mirror on Wednesday
The Sun and Daily Mirror's back pages on Wednesday

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