The Reds dropped in to the competition after finishing third in their Champions League group…
Liverpool have the Europa League to look forward to now, following a disappointing Champions League campaign in which they only recorded one victory. How they approach the competition could define the rest of their season, and they could learn a thing or two from their local rivals Everton in how to do so.
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The Toffees have been very successful so far in the lesser European competition, with their last match on Thursday night being a dead rubber as they have already qualified in first place in their group. This is a group that was described as being as tough as the Champions League by both the Wolfsburg and Lille hierarchies, who were fellow members of it. However, this has had an effect on Everton’s Premier League form, and they are currently lying in twelfth behind Aston Villa.
So how can Liverpool avoid this? It depends on how seriously they want to take it, but with a Champions League place up for grabs for the winner they should probably commit to Europe’s secondary competition. If they do take it seriously, then clever rotation of their squad will be key. Everton have suffered with injuries and a small squad, meaning they haven’t been able to change their XI very much.
Manager Brendan Rodgers will have to make sure that while always putting out a strong side on both Thursdays and Sundays, he is still able to rest some of his key players. It will be very difficult to choose for example , which matches Steven Gerrard should start in.
Another thing that the Reds will learn is that Anfield will be a huge advantage for them. Both Lille and Wolfsburg were beaten by three goals at Goodison Park, and these are teams which finished only a place off the Champions League in Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga last season. If Steven Gerrard and co. are able to turn Anfield in to a similarly difficult place for European sides then it will make the whole situation easier. They could even begin to rest players in the away fixtures knowing that they can make it up at home, as Everton have done so far.
So there will be problems to solve for Brendan Rodgers and his team, but if the Northern Irishman is able to manage his squad well and perform at home then they should be fine… An encounter with the Toffees in the latter stages could be something to look forward to if they do.