STEWART DOWNING says he is desperate for Liverpool to stay in the Europa League – to give himself a better chance of improving his long-term Anfield prospects.
Brendan Rodgers’s side will aim to secure their place in the knockout stages this evening with victory over an already-eliminated Udinese in Italy. A draw would be enough should Young Boys not win at home to Anzhi Makhachkala, who have already qualified, but defeat for Liverpool would see them crash out.
While Downing has started just three Premier League games this season, he has been an ever-present in the Europa League, scoring winners against FC Gomel and Anzhi.
And the winger accepts the longer Liverpool are in the tournament, the more opportunities he and others will have to impress Rodgers.
“I’ve had a couple of good goals and some good performances in the Europa League,” said Downing.
“It’s obviously nice to play – that’s where most of my appearances have been this season.
“It would be nice to go through because there are some big teams who are going to drop out from the Champions League, it would be a good test for us. I’m hoping it goes our way.
“It’s more games, more opportunities for players to get a chance.
“It’s been a good competition for us so far, bar one disappointing result.
“We’re looking to go through and test ourselves against some big teams because it gets harder as you go along.”
While Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger and Lucas Leiva have stayed on Merseyside, Pepe Reina, Luis Suraez, Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel were all in a strong squad that flew to Italy yesterday.