Brendan Rodgers press conference: Stoke, Benteke, vice-captain, injury and transfer update

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has been speaking to the media today ahead of our first match of the new Premier League season. The Reds face Stoke City on Sunday, in a rematch of the final game of last season.

The Northern Irishman spoke at length about Christian Benteke, James Milner and pre-season, but it was his comments on the game at the Britannia Stadium which were perhaps the most interesting.

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In quotes taken by Liverpool Echo reporter James Pearce, Rodgers discussed the need for the Reds to bounce back from that 6-1 defeat at the end of our 2014-15 campaign, and stated that he couldn’t have wished for a better chance to do than against the same opposition.

Liverpool come into the game off the back of a very positive pre-season campaign, in which we won five and drew one of our six fixtures. Both Rodgers’ playing and coaching staff have undergone a complete overhaul during the summer break, with seven new signings and three new members of staff joining the first-team squad.

Rodgers is confident that the changes will work in our favour and will allow us to respond well after a difficult season. However, he refuted suggestions that he is under any additional pressure to succeed after flattering to deceive last season.

The boss fielded questions on new striker Christian Benteke, who will likely start at the head of the Liverpool attack against Stoke on Sunday. The former Aston Villa man got off to the perfect start last weekend, scoring on debut in the friendly against Swindon, and Rodgers has been full of praise for his new man.

The arrival of Benteke, who has been joined by fellow new signings Danny Ings and Divock Origi in the Liverpool squad, has left both Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini well down the pecking order. However, Rodgers was tight-lipped on any potential transfer moves.

 Asked whether our new players and the renewed sense of optimism around the club could help inspire a title challenge, Rodgers was typically reserved, stating that the primary objective is to get back into the Champions League – having missed out on a top four spot last season.

There were also two major bits of team news ahead of this weekend’s game. The squad won’t include Joe Allen…

But it will include our new vice-captain, who is James Milner…

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