Captain Jordan Henderson hopes Liverpool have put a season of injury struggles and inconsistency behind them as they begin a potentially pivotal run of fixtures at Augsburg in the Europa League.
England midfielder Henderson, who has been restricted to 16 appearances this term due to a chronic heel problem, completed 90 minutes as Liverpool romped to a 6-0 Premier League win at lowly Aston Villa on Sunday.
The result left Liverpool eighth in the table – nine points behind fourth-place Manchester City, who they face in the League Cup final on February 28 before City visit in Anfield in the league three days later.
The most realistic route to Champions League football for Jurgen Klopp and his players is going all the way in Europe’s second-tier competition, and Henderson believes Liverpool must maintain their level of performance from Villa Park if they are to gain an advantage in the first leg of a tricky round-of-32-tie.
“We have had a lot of injuries this season and we have struggled because of it at times,” Henderson said.
“But hopefully we have been through the worst of it. We have struggled to find consistency but if we can keep it going we can beat anyone.”
Liverpool were able to combine returning striker Daniel Sturridge and Brazilian creative talents Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino to dazzling effect against Villa.
With the City double-header on the horizon, Klopp – who has previously lamented fixture congestion for his stretched squad this term – must ponder the trio’s workload, although Henderson will be happy to admire their talents if they are thrown together once more at WWK Arena.
“Those three are top, top players,” Henderson said. “You just let them go and play and cause havoc.
“I want to join in with them but I have to be careful about leaving space in the middle.
“I have got to think more about protecting the defence when we have got players of that quality in front of us.”
Christian Benteke and Divock Origi could push for starts after the latter came off the bench to score on Sunday, while defender Jon Flanagan is in line for his first European involvement since the Europa League trip to face Anzhi in November 2012.
Augsburg performed creditably in a 3-1 loss to Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich on Sunday – the Europa League’s joint top-scorer Raul Bobadilla netting their consolation.
Thursday’s match is Augsburg’s first competitive encounter with English opponents, while Liverpool are seeking to avoid the fate they suffered last season and in 2012-13 when they were knocked out of the Europa League at this stage by Besiktas and Zenit respectively.
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