Ahead of Liverpool’s Europa League clash with Besiktas, Brendan Rodgers has had his say on UEFA's decision to ban Lazar Markovic for four games.
We learned yesterday that the winger would miss Liverpool’s next four European ties, which include both of the Besiktas games and the two in the next round should they progress past the Turkish side.
Rodgers on the ban
According to the Daily Mirror, Rodgers said of the decision: “We are obviously disappointed with the length of the ban.
“We felt it was very harsh but we accept it and unfortunately he won’t be able to contribute. Hopefully he will play many more European games for the club.”
"We felt it was very harsh but we accept it and unfortunately he won’t be able to contribute"
Uefa extended the normal two game ban to an extra two because Markovic was sent off last season in the Europa League for Benfica. Rodgers couldn’t say too much on the decision but was clearly annoyed at such a heavy punishment for such a farcical incident. After all, Markovic barely brushed the face of Basel’s Behrang Safari.
Ba's coming back to haunt Liverpool
As the Northern Irish manager prepares to face Slaven Bilic’s side, he also will be preparing for the return to Anfield of Demba Ba. Though Rodgers was quick to play down the striker’s return.
“It won’t stimulate any bad memories for me. He scored a goal. We will pay him respect but nothing more than that," Rodgers said.
“He has been a very good player and had a fruitful period in England - a wonderful player who scores goals and he has done well at Besiktas.”
There’s no doubt that what Ba did at the end of last season is still in the back of the Liverpool boss’ mind, let alone that of Steven Gerrard’s, though the captain may not actually feature in the game.
This year, for the first time, the winner of the Europa League automatically qualifies for next season’s Champions League, and the opportunity of lifting two trophies this season is still on the table for the Reds.
The Liverpool boss said: “I said at the beginning of the season one of the objectives was to win a trophy so you will see from the efforts we have put into the cup competition. This is a prestigious trophy and one we want to do well in.”
Bilic has built a strong side at Besiktas and Rodgers was sure not to take them lightly.
He said: “It’s a tough game as you saw in their recent games against Tottenham and Arsenal. We are obviously very confident in terms of our performance.”
It will be a tough test for Liverpool against a side who are unbeaten in their last seven Europa League games, but Liverpool have only lost twice in their last 22 competitive outings. Both will go into the game full of confidence after each side picked up important wins at the weekend.