'Liverpool not thinking about the Europa League' – Milner defiant after PSG defeat
Posted On March 22, 2019
The Reds midfielder claims his side are focused on the task of reaching the Champions League knockout stages and not contemplating failure
James Milner says Liverpool have not thought about the prospect of dropping down to the Europa League despite their recent difficulties in the Champions League group stages.
The Reds’ defeat to PSG on Wednesday means they have lost all three of their away matches in Europe this season and must beat Napoli at Anfield in their final Group C encounter to have any chance of qualifying for the last 16.
Both Napoli and PSG currently sit above Jurgen Klopp’s side in the table and if Liverpool are to finish third then they will become part of the Europa League knockout stages in the new year.
Milner, though, says his side are fully focused on beating Napoli in their final group match and have not thought about the prospect of going from a Champions League final to the Europa League in the space of seven months.
“I don’t think that’s crossed anyone’s mind to be honest,” Milner insisted.
“Our aim is to get out of the group: get the result and get through. If we don’t do that we don’t deserve to be in the Champions League and we’ll take whatever happens from there – Europa League or whatever.
“At this moment in time we’re just focused on getting through the group.”
Much has been made of PSG’s theatrics during Wednesday’s clash at the Parc des Princes, with Milner penalised by the referee on a number of occasions.
Jamie Carragher was among those to slam Neymar for his actions on the night, but Milner claims he was expecting it ahead of kick-off.
“You can’t really be surprised by that. If you are surprised by that you are a bit foolish.
“As a player you can’t do anything about it can you? You just still have to press but when you do that it doesn’t make it easier when you are on the front foot and trying to win the ball back.
“It’s then in the referee’s hands to give fouls if he thinks it is a foul. As players you know that in Europe decisions are probably given slightly easier than they are in the Premier League but that is part of European football. I am used to that now.”
For Liverpool to qualify for the last 16, they must beat Napoli 1-0 in their final group match or win by a two-goal margin if Carlo Ancelotti’s side manage to score on the night.
Home advantage is likely to be a big factor for Klopp’s side, who have won both of their games at Anfield in Europe this term.
Asked why last season’s finalists have been below par away from home during the current campaign, Milner said: “Red Star we didn’t play well, Napoli we conceded in the last minute. Here (Paris) we didn’t start well in the first 10 minutes but after that it was a pretty even game and we had chances to win it. That’s it in a nutshell.
“There are a lot of differences in European football: the style of play, teams building up slower, midweek games – there’s a lot of that goes into it.
“We’re not that experienced in the Champions League. We had a good run last year and that will definitely help us but we got through in the final group game last year and look where we ended up.
“You don’t see any of the lads panicking, we are comfortable we can go and finish the job at home.”
Liverpool’s next match will see them host Everton in the first Merseyside Derby of the season this Sunday. The Reds have a particularly busy festive schedule and are due to play eight games in December.
Milner believes the demanding fixture list gives his side a good opportunity to get back on track and says Liverpool would have taken their current situation in the Champions League if someone had offered it to them before the campaign had begun.
“It is what the best teams do, bounce back. We have a big game at the weekend so that helps but we knew it was a tough group all along, the Champions League is tough,” the Reds’ vice-captain added.
“But to have it in your own hands going into the last game and having a home game – we’d like to have it sewn up by now sure we would – but I don’t think you can ask for more. If you had said ‘you have to win your last home game to get through the group’ I think everyone would have been fine with it.
“It isn’t going to be easy, they (Napoli) are a very good team. At Red Star people said it was a poor result but I’d say it was more of a poor performance than a poor result, we didn’t play well enough.
“It was never going to be an easy place to go, it’s a tough group. To have the last game at home, if you don’t get the win you don’t deserve to go through.”