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Rodgers Finds Champions League Inspiration

His club may not be in Europe, but Brendan Rodgers is nonetheless finding opportunities to make sure his players experience continental competition in order to spark an even deeper motivation for getting there themselves.

The actual photo of Stevie is too old to be in the database. :(
The actual photo of Stevie is too old to be in the database. :(
Michael Dodge

It was certainly no Boyzone concert, but in the grand tradition of Liverpool managers spending a night on the town with their players, Brendan Rodgers and a few of his charges took in Wednesday's Champions League match up where hosts Manchester City lost 1-3 to a nearly flawless Bayern Munich. (She says without bias.)

The result isn't terribly important in the grand scheme of Liverpool's temporary status as a team limited to chasing only domestic honours this year, but experiencing a dominating win by Europe's reigning club champions is more about whetting one's appetite once more for the thrill of Champions League football after too many dry seasons without playing in the top European competition.

"For anyone in football, if you have a love for the game, it's interesting watching two top teams come together," Rodgers said. "That was as good as it gets, you would do well to see another performance like that one anywhere in Europe.

"You have to learn from that. You look at that level and, for me it's important because Liverpool want to return to that level. You have to keep one eye on the future and if you look at that you see the quality required."

Rodgers brought with him Steven Gerrard and "one or two other players as well" — it remains unknown why the size and identities of the travelling party are shrouded in such mystery — and while the captain has experienced Champions League football at the absolute highest level, he remains the only player in the current squad to have enjoyed the ultimate success of the competition.

"You have to keep one eye on the future and if you look at that you see the quality required"

Vice captain Daniel Agger played in the last final that Liverpool reached in 2007, with Lucas, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, and Martin Kelly (!) rounding out the list of players who were with the team the last time Liverpool were in the group stages. Many of the recruits since that point played for Champions League bound teams in the past, but they've never experienced Liverpool's particular brand of European football.

And so, like most things, it comes back to establishing a winning mentality in the squad, and fact finding missions with the gaffer are another tool for building a foundation of mental success. Putting players in a position to personally experience the joys of Champions League football is an easy way to help nurture that hunger. It's an ongoing, long term process, but Rodgers is ready to roll up his sleeves.

"There's an awful lot of work to do, but watching that game was a real motivation. That's where every coach, every manager every player wants to operate," he said. "You want to compete at that level and be judged at that level. Obviously this club was doing that for a lot of years."

Convenient location of the fixture aside, Rodgers' choice of checking out a match involving Bayern Munich is interesting given Pep Guardiola's own ever-evolving tactical Ich verstehe nicht that he's been experimenting with since pre-season. Guardiola inherited a ridiculously stacked side that he proceeded to improve with even more talent, but in spite of this he's played a balancing act between articulating his own footballing philosophy and instituting more pragmatic tactical choices when the situation calls for it. Bayern are, somewhat improbably, looking even better than they did last year.

Much has been said about whether or not Brendan Rodgers has abandoned the pass-and-move style characteristic of so many great Liverpool sides in favour of the not-so-sexy grinding out of wins, but like with the situations Guardiola has found himself in, Rodgers seems to be striking a balance between philosophy and pragmatism. Liverpool may be incredibly far removed from the kind of game Bayern are playing at the moment, but they are getting results with Rodgers' willingness to try different things.

It takes many steps to get to the level where you can contend for a continental title, but Rodgers seems to have his eye on the prize.

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