Reds cannot afford to lose against star-studded Real Madrid
LIVERPOOL v REAL MADRID
(Tomorrow, 2.45am, SingTel mio TV Ch 111)
There is no room for manoeuvre now. Excuses will be no defence against the storm.
Liverpool's season so far has been characterised by inconsistent and incoherent performances.
They have to get their act together now. Another display as poor as the one at Loftus Road on Sunday and Real Madrid will annihilate them at Anfield tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
The last time Real Madrid visited Anfield, it was very much the other way round. Rafa Benitez's men ran riot, putting four past the Spanish giants to seal a 5-0 win.
But that was in 2009, during an extraordinary run-in that very nearly ended with a title win.
The similarities to what followed then and what has followed Liverpool's most recent title challenge are eerie. Then, as now, Liverpool lost games freely at home and abroad from the early stages of the season.
In 2009, they crashed out of the Champions League and ended up finishing seventh. How Rodgers must hope this campaign does not go the same way.
But the omens are not good.
Liverpool have problems in all departments. The loss of Luis Suarez was always going to cause the club problems, but they didn't expect to be without Daniel Sturridge as well.
Unfortunately, the gamble of signing Mario Balotelli is yet to pay off. The Italian striker was abject against QPR, missed an open goal and appears to be playing with no confidence whatsoever.
There has been talk of Rodgers playing Raheem Sterling as a false No. 9. It's either that, or Rickie Lambert leads the line against the European champions.
In midfield, Steven Gerrard's powers are fading. He spent much of Sunday trying to cover for his teammates' inadequacies, but he no longer has the legs to do that week-in, week-out.
Jordan Henderson is working manfully alongside him, but with limited success. The signing of the much-heralded Emre Can is another move that hasn't yet been vindicated, although he is young and his preparations have been disrupted by injury.
In defence, there are serious concerns. Dejan Lovren was supposed to be the answer but, if that's the case, heaven only knows what the question was.
Jose Enrique has returned from injury without his form, Glen Johnson is always vulnerable, Martin Skrtel doesn't offer the physical protection you might expect and the whole edifice is undermined by Simon Mignolet, who might be a good shot-stopper, but cannot dominate his penalty area.
For all that, Liverpool's results are improving. Two consecutive wins in the Premier League can never be sniffed at, even if they were fortunate and against two teams you would expect to be in the relegation dog-fight.
Rodgers will know that it's the sign of a good team if you can play badly and still win games. He will know, too, that it's the sign of a better team if you don't play badly all the time.
Real Madrid certainly don't have any concerns about their recent form. Since losing to Atletico Madrid on Sept 13, they've won seven games on the bounce, racking up an extraordinary 32 goals in the process.
For that, they have Cristiano Ronaldo to thank. The Portuguese forward had a very disappointing summer, a lacklustre figure in a poor team that were eliminated in the group stage.
Now he appears to be making up for last time. Fifteen goals from seven league games is a preposterous rate of success. If he scored with that frequency on a computer game, you would assume that the software was bugged.
At least he won't be joined by Gareth Bale, who has "only" scored four times in La Liga. The Welshman is suffering from a hip injury, was an unused substitute against Levante at the weekend and will miss this game.
But when you have Ronaldo in your team, you can cope with absences elsewhere. Liverpool will have to be at their best to stop him.
Otherwise this could be a very, very long night.
"This is what we play for - Real Madrid in the Champions League. It’s a great game, and we will do our best to show we’re able to compete with the best, and I believe we can get a result against them."
- Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel