James Milner discussed Liverpool’s ‘tough’ Champions League assignment at Genk, his Ballon d’Or-nominated teammates and his own future during Tuesday night’s pre-match press conference.

The vice-captain addressed the media 24 hours prior to the European champions’ third Group E fixture at KRC Genk Arena.

Milner fielded questions on a wide variety of topics, and you can read a summary of his answers below…

On whether this game will be more ‘straightforward’ than the last Champions League outing against Salzburg…

I don’t think any Champions League games are straightforward. We know it’ll be a tough game, they’re strong at home, they’re a strong side anyway. I think they had a good European campaign last year and obviously after a good result against Napoli they’re going to be full of confidence and wanting to put on a big performance and be a big test for us.

On Liverpool’s recent record in Champions League away group games and whether the lack of wins is due to the fact it is a key period domestically…

I think that might come into it. There’s a lot of games around this period, it’s tough, there’s a lot of international breaks as well so it’s hard to get that rhythm of plenty of games. But on the other hand we haven’t been good enough away from home, that’s the simple fact of the matter. We have to be better away from home and there are no easy games in the Champions League, at home or away. So we have to be better, we have to improve, but obviously [with] the amount of games that we have that might be a factor, but we have a very good squad of players, an experienced squad of players. We need to improve away from home, we know that and hopefully we can do that, starting tomorrow.

On the difficulties of playing away in Europe…

Well, I think we’ve had some very good results away from home as well. I think Bayern Munich stands out as a good result away from home. With stats, you can paint them how you want so we can think about the Bayern game which was a massively important game and we went there and did the business against one of the best teams in Europe, or you can turn around and say the group games were this and that. We want to win, we go into every game wanting to win. It won’t be easy but we have to go out there and perform to make that happen.

On the Reds’ seven Ballon d’Or nominees

I think it’s well deserved, the lads who are in there. I think it says a lot about the team and the job we’re doing as a club and as a squad collectively. There’s probably a couple more who weren’t in there who could’ve had a chance as well, so that says a lot about the team and getting to back-to-back Champions League finals helps as well. I think the great thing about the squad, you can see how we play: we play as a team, the team comes first and everybody does their job on both sides of the ball. Individual awards are great, they come along, but you have to be doing the business as a team and winning trophies as a team. That’s the mentality within the squad, the team always comes first, and if there’s individual awards to be picked up on the way then that’s great and recognition for the job you’re doing. But I know for a fact that every single player would sacrifice individual awards for team trophies.

On whether the busy fixture schedule will give him more opportunities to play…

As a player you want to play as many games as you can. So every time you get that chance to go out there and perform you need to do it to the best of your ability and make it difficult for the manager to leave you out. Like I said before, we’ve got a strong squad of players and the competition is strong in every position – and that’s exactly what we need of each other to perform. Having that amount of games is what happens when you’re successful and we’re lucky enough to be in that, we’re still in all the competitions and we go out there to win every single game we can. I think all the players are used to it now. It doesn’t make it any easier now, the boys going away for internationals and travelling and things like that, but we’ve gone the distance in this competition for a couple of years in a row and we know what it’s all about. We need to keep looking after ourselves and hopefully have luck with injuries and things like that as well.

On Alisson Becker’s return and the impact the goalkeeper has on the side…

Adrian did fantastically well. It wasn’t easy for him to step in at the time, he hadn’t trained much, he wasn’t match fit. He came in and made some massive saves at big times in games, so he’s done a fantastic job and slipped straight into the squad. I can’t say enough good things about him, but obviously Ali, we know how good he is. We know how well he did in his first season, what he brings to the team both in goalkeeping and in character but also with his ability with his feet as well. He’s obviously massive and will help us again and hopefully it won’t take him too long to get back up to speed because it’s not easy having a broken pre-season and things like that, obviously with him having the tournament in the summer. But again, like I said, the job Adrian did while he was playing was fantastic.

On his own future and whether he expects to still be a Liverpool player this time next year…

Who knows. There have been talks so hopefully it gets resolved sooner rather than later, but at this moment I’ll just keep playing football as well as I can.

On how pleased he was to see Adam Lallana come off the bench and make a match-saving contribution against Manchester United…

Delighted. We all know how good Adam is and you need that luck in football, and he hadn’t seemed to have it over the last couple of years. Nobody sees the side within the training ground, when he’s working in the gym tirelessly and trying everything and coming back and putting the graft in and the long hours and every attention to detail possible. So for him to come back and score in a massive game and get a massive point for us was fantastic and everyone is delighted for him. It shows again that you need a full squad of players and competition and top-quality players [to be successful] and he has proved many times how good he is. It’s great to have him back, not only on the field with his ability but the character he is and the voice he is in the dressing room is very important to us.

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