LIVERPOOL FC have been handed a Europa League third qualifying round clash with either Macedonian side FK Renova or FC Gomel of Belarus for their first competitive match under Brendan Rodgers.
But the manager will be under no pressure this term to get the team into the Champions League, according to Reds’ principal owner John Henry.
The Merseysiders – in the Europa League by virtue of winning last season’s Carling Cup – were seeded in Group Two and could have been paired with Dundee United for matches that are set to be played on August 2 and 9.
But instead, following yesterday’s draw, they await the winners of the second qualifying round tie between Gomel and Renova, which the Belarusians lead 2-0 going into the second leg to be played in Belarus next Thursday.
Gomel’s home ground is the Central Stadion, they are managed by Oleg Kubarev and they finished third in the Belarussian Premier League last year, while Renova were fourth in the Macedonian First League.
Rodgers, the former Swansea boss appointed as Liverpool manager this summer following the sacking of Kenny Dalglish, will be looking to make an immediate impact in this early European assignment ahead of the Premier League season, which gets under way a little over a week after they play the second leg.
Top-flight success will be paramount after the Reds’ disappointing eighth-place finish in the 2011-12 campaign, although it seems the hierarchy at the club are being realistic in their expectations.
This time last year Henry, as lead figure for owners Fenway Sports Group, told Dalglish the requirement was a top-four finish, but no such demands are being put on Rodgers – or at least, not at this early stage of his reign.
“We don’t want to put any pressure on Brendan by saying you have got to make the Champions League this year,” said Henry, who has seen the Liverpool squad close up this week as they have been in Boston preparing for their pre-season tour of the United States.