Liverpool may face a two goal deficit when they take on Zenit at Anfield next Thursday, but Brendan Rodgers believes his side can still advance. The reality, though, is that's far from likely.
Despite heading home with a two goal deficit and no away goals to show for their trip to St. Petersburg, Brendan Rodgers believes Liverpool aren't out of their Europa League tie yet. On the surface, at least, it seems misplaced optimism—or at the very least optimism solely for public consumption—in the same vein as the frequent top four talk from Rodgers and his players in recent months.
"If we can be solid defensively as a group, we know we can create the chances to score," said Rodgers, speaking to ITV4 following the match. "The next goal is vital for us, if we get the next goal it opens up the tie."
The only problem for Rodgers—or the main one, at least—is that if Zenit score at Anfield, Liverpool will need to score four times to win as their away goal would give the Russian side the tie-breaking edge.
And given the space that will be left for players like Hulk, Danny, and Aleksandr Kerzhakov to counter into while the rest of the Zenit side sits back, knowing Liverpool need to attack to have any hope of advancing, the smart money will be on next week's visitors finding at least one goal in the match.
"We're very disappointed to have lost the game," he continued. "After that opening spell, when they had too much space, I thought it was a near-on perfect away performance. We had chances to score and should have been in front, and we were defensively solid. So to concede the two goals in the last 20 minutes, especially the second one, was disappointing.''
As for Suarez' night, one that saw the striker spurn four chances to score with
AfinkeevMalafeev at his mercy, Rodgers added: "He could have had a hat-trick by half-time. It just wasn't his night but he's been brilliant for us all season. The important thing is that after his first one-on-one, he kept going and was still in there.''
Hopefully both Suarez and Liverpool will be able to keep going in the return leg. And hopefully, this time around, they'll have a little more luck—or composure—in front of goal. Even if they do, though, Liverpool's chances of continuing on in the Europa League are currently hovering somewhere between slim and nil.