Defender Kolo Toure claims being written off against Real Madrid was just the motivation Liverpool’s fringe players needed to prove they can provide viable alternatives for Brendan Rodgers.
The 1-0 defeat in the Bernabeu was nowhere near the catastrophe many predicted when it emerged star names like Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling were being rested with a meeting with Chelsea on the horizon.
Of the seven players who came in Toure, midfielder Lucas Leiva and forward Fabio Borini showed they may yet have something to offer the Reds boss after being kept on the fringes for most of the season.
Toure made his first start in anything other than the Capital One Cup since February and did a more than adequate job of restricting free-scoring forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who was denied the goal which would have seen him equal Raul’s Champions League record tally of 71.
He may have played himself into contention to face Jose Mourinho’s side at Anfield on Saturday and based on his display could displace Dejan Lovren who has looked anything but convincing since his £20million summer move from Southampton.
Borini’s tireless running was in direct contrast to the often static performances this season of compatriot Mario Balotelli but considering he was told at the beginning of the campaign his chances would be limited it may be unlikely he retains his place to face his former club.
But what he and his fellow members of Liverpool’s second string showed was a determination to prove they can still make a significant contribution.
“People were saying we had no chance against Real Madrid but that gave us motivation,” said Ivory Coast international Toure.
“When you don’t play a lot and a manager gives you a chance to show what you can do you give everything you have got.
“That is what happened and that’s the way we need to play in every game now. We all showed the manager we will fight.
“I know we lost but I am very happy because we played a really good game.
“At end of the day everyone worked hard and showed so much determination. “We had a lot of players out there who haven’t played many games this season but we showed what a good squad we have.
“It doesn’t matter what players play here, they will give 100 per cent. You have to be ready and we showed that.
“As a team, we worked so hard and I am really proud of the boys. We could have got a draw out of it.”
Liverpool’s defensive frailties have been exposed regularly this season with Martin Skrtel, captain on the night, and Lovren so far failing to establish a commanding partnership at the heart of the defence.
Toure, like Lovren after him, was brought in by Rodgers last season to provide leadership and organisational skills and his experience could be just what they need when unbeaten Premier League leaders Chelsea come calling.
He certainly has the big-game experience from spells with Arsenal and Manchester City and did not look out of place in the Bernabeu despite being a bit-part player for the last nine months.
“I have missed games like this,” he added. “These are the kind of games you remember all your life. The last game I played here was with Arsenal when we won.
“I play with my heart and I am ready to fight for my club.”
ANALYSIS: Kolo Toure Impresses But Martin Skrtel Shows Why He Should Be The One He Replaces
Liverpool remain third in Group B and, as predicted when the draw was made, their hopes of progression rest on their final two matches away to Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets and at home to Basle which they have to win.
“We are still in there. We will do everything to win those last two games and get through to the next round,” said Toure.
“I definitely believe we can do it. If we play with our quality and our heart then we will win those matches.”
Pre-match Rodgers stressed he had never placed extra significance solely on those two remaining matches but now he admits he knew it would be where their fate was decided.
“When the draw was made we felt it was probably going to go down to the last game against Basle but we have to win our next game to bring it down to that,” he said.
Having brushed aside criticism of his team selection the Reds boss immediately turned his attention to the visit of Chelsea, which has to have a successful outcome if his experiment in Madrid is to be deemed worthwhile.
“Now we have to be focused on the Chelsea game and pick a team which we feel will be the best to win the game,” he added.