Rodgers reliant on Suarez

  • Last Updated: February 21 2013, 8:03 GMT

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is hoping for a big performance from star striker Luis Suarez to salvage his side's Europa League hopes.

Brendan Rodgers: Believes Suarez is critical for Liverpool
Brendan Rodgers: Believes Suarez is critical for Liverpool

The Uruguayan will once again be the main attacking spearhead as the Reds seek to overturn a 2-0 deficit against Zenit St Petersburg at Anfield to claim a place in the last 16.

Luis Suarez

9. Luis Suarez

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That is a responsibility the 26-year-old, who has scored 22 goals this season, carried often enough before his burden was eased considerably with the signing of Daniel Sturridge seven weeks ago.

But with Sturridge ineligible for the Europa League and fellow striker Fabio Borini out injured, the bulk of the load again reverts to Suarez.

Rodgers had this in mind when he substituted the former Ajax man, to the player's apparent frustration, with 12 minutes of Sunday's 5-0 thrashing of Swansea remaining.

Rodgers said: "He is a real warrior of spirit, and he is a winner.

"He didn't want to come off. He wanted to stay on and get more goals.

"I've obviously got to think of the bigger picture.

"He is going to be very important for us (against Zenit). Giving him that little breather - at the time it is difficult for him to accept because he wanted to play - but he is a critical player for us."

Captain Steven Gerrard has appealed for supporters to recreate the atmosphere of some of the club's most famous European nights to pull them through their predicament.

Those sentiments were echoed by Rodgers at his pre-match press conference and the Northern Irishman believes the deficit can be overturned.

He said: "The legend of Liverpool is based on these nights.

"If you walk round Melwood and see the various quotes from top players and some of the best managers in the world - it is not the game that is talked about, it is the supporters.

"Such nights really make Liverpool what it is.

"I am sure we will get the backing that will hopefully get us to a victory."

Only once have Liverpool overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit to win, against Auxerre in the UEFA Cup in 1991, but their history is filled with memorable European fightbacks.

The competition may lack the glamour of the Champions League but Rodgers claims it has been of real value this term and wants to continue.

He said: "There will be nothing more than great pride if we can get through to the last 16 playing against such a good side.

"This is why we are in it as managers, to work at the highest level we can.

"The Europa League is still a prestigious tournament and it is one we would like to do well in."

Liverpool were beaten in the first leg in Russia last week after goals from Hulk and Sergei Semak in the second half.

Defender Martin Skrtel is doubtful for the return clash with a knee injury.


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