Liverpool can put the disappointment of their opening Premier League game under new coach Brendan Rodgers behind them when they head north of the border to face Hearts in their Europa League first-leg play-off match today.
The Anfield club suffered a humbling 3-0 defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, leaving Rodgers to insist that he will need time to turn their fortunes around.
The pressure will be very much on if they slip up against the Scottish Cup holders in Edinburgh, but captain Steven Gerrard is confident that Liverpool can get back on track.
“It’s important that the likes of myself and the other experienced players take responsibility for a poor defeat,” he told the Liverpool Echo.
“We have to put it behind us. We’ve got to dust ourselves down and bounce back against Hearts on Thursday night. We have to react in the right manner and look to put things right in the coming games,” Gerrard said.
It would be a huge shock if Liverpool — who edged out Gomel of Belarus in the third qualifying round — failed to come through this two-legged tie and take a place in the group stage of the competition.
However, what in the past would have been classed as a “Battle of Britain” is now something of a mismatch.
Where once Scottish clubs were able to compete more or less on a par with their southern neighbors, the vast sums of money thrown at the English game over the last two decades have left them lagging behind.
While the Anfield board have reportedly splashed out close to ￡30 million (US$47.3 million) on Joe Allen, Fabio Borini and Oussama Assaidi this summer, cash-strapped Hearts have seen a whole host of players leave without being able to replace them.
A year ago the Jam Tarts lost 5-0 at home to Tottenham Hotspur at the same stage of the competition, while on Saturday they were held to a 2-2 draw at home by 10-man Inverness in the Scottish Premier League.
“It’s a totally different kettle of fish, playing against Liverpool, and we’ll have to rise to the challenge,” Hearts manager John McGlynn said. “They’re obviously a fantastic football club. They suffered a 3-0 defeat themselves on Saturday, but only time will tell whether that is an advantage or disadvantage to us.”
Elsewhere, Newcastle United is to face Greek club Atromitos in Athens.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, who saw his side beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in their Premier League opener at the weekend, is likely to rest key players with Saturday’s trip to Chelsea in mind, while Hatem Ben Arfa is suspended.
“The fact we will have to juggle our playing staff for the Premier League and the Europa League fixtures means we have to take a bit of a gamble with our chances of progressing in Europe,” Pardew said.
“There isn’t a lot of money in it, not unless you win the thing. Not compared to the Premier League,” he added.
“I am still, of course, looking forward to the challenge. You want to pit your wits against other nationalities, other managers with different types of football,” Pardew said.
In other games, Scottish side Motherwell face Spain’s Levante, who are competing in Europe for the first time, last season’s runners-up Athletic Bilbao face HJK Helsinki, and Inter take on Vaslui of Romania.
Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart face Dinamo Moscow, whose line-up includes former Germany striker Kevin Kuranyi.