Rodgers: ‘Ronaldo’ a Real threat

Brendan Rodgers admits the absence of Gareth Bale will mean little to Liverpool as they still must find a way to stop Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Merseysiders are preparing for Wednesday night’s Champions League clash with the Spanish giants at Anfield.

Bale will be missing from the Madrid side with a muscle injury, but Isco, his likely replacement, is another potent attacking threat for Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

Ronaldo remains their main driving force, scoring 15 times in his last seven La Liga outings, and Rodgers believes the Portugal international has emerged as the complete player in recent years.

“Gareth Bale is a world-class player with fantastic speed and fantastic talent, but with the squad Real Madrid have they can bring in players like Isco so I don’t think really it’s an advantage if he doesn’t play,” said the Reds boss.

It’s still going to be a very difficult game for us, they have a squad full of top-class players.

“Of course there is a special talent in Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world at the moment, and his evolution from being a soloist who scores goals to a goalscorer is there to see and his record is incredible.

“But we have to make a plan for our team first to ensure we cause Real Madrid problems and then prepare yourself for the quality players they have, but that will be as a team.”

Liverpool have lacked attacking fluency this season, with main striker Mario Balotelli appearing short on confidence and composure in Sunday’s 3-2 win at QPR.

But Rodgers has kept faith with the Italian and hopes he can play a decisive role against Madrid.

“He’s been fine, of course he was disappointed after the weekend – he’s a goalscorer so he wants to score goals,” added Rodgers.

“But I highlighted to him he was in the positions to miss, he was arriving in the areas, so I think it’s only a matter of time before he gets his goals.

“He’s a good kid, he’s working hard and he has scored goals in big games and I’m sure he will go into the game tomorrow night – if selected – focused on getting off the mark again, and as long as he is in there getting into the positions I’m sure he can score.”

Raheem Sterling responded to criticism about his fitness with a fine individual display against his former club at the weekend.

Rodgers fully expects the 19-year-old to be ready for another crucial fixture, just three days later.

“I think he’s shown over the last couple of years he has that quality and ability to do that,” he said. “Probably a lot more was made about what happened when he was away with England.

“It was no surprise to me [against QPR], he was a real catalyst for us – wonderful speed, technique and hard work so I’ve no doubt he can arrive into the game and produce the same quality.”

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