Liverpool could be punished by UEFA after they appeared to break Champions League rules with their team selection for Tuesday night’s clash against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.
Rule 4.01, subsection d, clearly states that all teams competing in Europe’s premier club competition are required to field their strongest teams throughout the competition - but Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers may have fallen foul of this regulation.
Rodgers left first-team regulars Glen Johnson, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Mario Balotelli all on the substitutes’ bench - opting instead to deploy what appeared to be a significantly weakened team.
It’s believed Rodgers may have made the decision with Saturday’s Premier League clash against Chelsea in mind. The Reds, who finished last season second in the Premier League table, have struggled this season - and were beaten 1-0 by Newcastle United in their previous outing, last Saturday.
But Rodgers’ decision to field a weakened team attracted strong criticism on social media, with former England striker - and current Match of the Day presenter - Gary Lineker stating the starting line-up was "unbefitting of a club of Liverpool's European stature" and that they had given up before the game had even began.
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Rodgers hits back
"[Gary Lineker] has never been a manager, so he does not know what you're up against with planning and training." - Brendan Rodgers
This led Rodgers to hit back at the retired striker in his post-match press conference. The Northern Irish coach said: "Gary's a figure who I respect and he's been a top player in his day.
"But he has never been a manager, so he does not know what you're up against with planning and training.
"In terms of my team selection, I'm not really bothered (about the criticism). I go with my gut feeling and my gut feeling was that the performance on Saturday (a 1-0 defeat to Newcastle) was not good enough.
"We have seven games in 21 days and because we cannot train so much we have to develop in the games. I did not see this as the big showpiece game where we have to play the big names."
UEFA to decide Liverpool's fate
Liverpool were beaten 1-0 by the reigning European champions - Karim Benzema scoring the only goal of the game in the first half - and the players Rodgers selected were not overawed by the occasion.
But plenty were left wondering whether Liverpool could have achieved a positive result had their best players been on the pitch.
It’s now in the hands of UEFA to decide whether or not to take any formal action against Liverpool, who face an uphill battle to qualify for the Champions League knockout rounds following their controversial defeat.