Rodgers plays down Bale absence for Real

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has downplayed Gareth Bale's absence for Real Madrid ahead of their UEFA Champions League clash.

Rodgers' men welcome Real to Anfield on Wednesday having made an unconvincing return to the Champions League this season, overcoming minnows Ludogorets 2-1 and losing 1-0 to Swiss side Basel so far in Group B.

Bale's omission from Real's squad, due to a hip injury, will come as a boost to Liverpool's hopes of victory, however, Rodgers is still wary of a side led by Ballon d'Or holder Cristiano Ronaldo and which also features the attacking talents of the likes of James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema.

"It's still going to be a very difficult game for us, they have a squad full of top-class players," Rodgers said.

"Of course, there is a special talent in Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world at the moment, and his evolution from being a soloist who scores goals to a goalscorer is there to see and his record is incredible.

"But we have to make a plan for our team first to ensure we cause Real Madrid problems and then prepare yourself for the quality players they have, but that will be as a team."

The Northern Irishman's main concern will likely be how to engineer an attacking threat, with Daniel Sturridge out through injury and close-season acquisition Mario Balotelli struggling to find form.

Former Manchester City and Milan striker Balotelli missed an open goal in a 3-2 triumph at QPR last Sunday, but Rodgers is confident the Italian will soon rediscover his scoring touch.

"He's [Balotelli] been fine, of course he was disappointed after the weekend - he's a goalscorer so he wants to score goals," Rodgers added.

"But I highlighted to him he was in the positions to miss, he was arriving in the areas, so I think it's only a matter of time before he gets his goals.

"He's a good kid, he's working hard and he has scored goals in big games and I'm sure he will go into the game tomorrow night - if selected - focused on getting off the mark again, and as long as he is in there getting into the positions I'm sure he can score."