Liverpool: Liverpool have come of age in the Champions League and transformed themselves from “moaners into men”, according to their manager Gerard Houllier.
The Frenchman claims the current Reds side is unrecognisable from the Anfield outfit he inherited just over four years ago, which struggled in European competition.
“You need a few things to have any chance in Europe,” he said in an interview Thursday. “You need physique, you have to be strong, and you need the mental strength to overcome falling a goal behind, a poor refereeing decision or to withstand provocation. I now have a team of men, not moaners.”
Liverpool this week became the masters of their own destiny in group B after an impressive 3-1 win in Spartak Moscow, thanks to Michael Owen’s hattrick.
Victory over Spanish champions Valencia next Wednesday, coupled with a slip-up by Swiss side Basel against Spartak, would send the English Premier League leaders into the second group phase for the second successive season.
Houllier believes his defensive shield can provide the springboard to turning around the 0-2 defeat his side suffered in their opening game last month in Spain.
“We no longer make silly mistakes that can cost you the game. We are more focused and controlled, and tactically we are extremely disciplined,” he said.
“I always believe the virtues of offensive play can only be enhanced by your defensive play and we have that now.
“The Valencia game could be the key because if we win and Basel draw in Moscow then we are through. We also have a reason to perform against Valencia, as that was one of the worst performances I’ve seen from my team in a long time. I think it is in the back of the players’ minds to show them (Valencia) they are better than that.”