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Page last updated at 05:48 GMT, Wednesday, 13 August 2008 06:48 UK

Liege concern over Liverpool game

Uefa Champions League, third qualifying round, first leg:

Date: Wednesday, 13 August Kick-off: 2005 BST Coverage: BBC Sport website

By Mandeep Sanghera

Standard Liege and United States centre-back Oguchi Oneywu
Onyewu was part of a Newcastle side which beat Liverpool

Standard Liege defender Oguchi Onyewu says it is unfair the Belgian league winners have to play Liverpool in a Champions League qualifier.

The Belgian champions face Liverpool, who finished fourth in the Premier League last season, on Wednesday.

"I'm sure a lot of Belgians feel it is unfair the champions of a country have to play a qualifying round to get into the Champions League," said Onyewu.

It was worse because Liverpool were "such a strong opponent", he said.

Liege won their first title in 25 years with last season but did not get an automatic place in the group stages because of governing body Uefa's coefficient ranking list.

"I'm sure people in Belgium were hoping that once you win your championship that you would automatically qualify for the Champions League like some other countries do, such as England, Germany, Spain and so on," the Liege centre-back, who will be suspended for the first leg.


"It is going to be a very difficult two matches to qualify for the next stage of the Champions League.

"People here in Belgium were probably hoping for a more favourable draw but we are still relishing the opportunity to play against Liverpool.

"We definitely respect Liverpool. They are a great and huge club. They have a great history, especially in terms of the Champions League so we will have our work cut out for us.

"Hopefully, we will be able to rise to the occasion in the two matches that lay ahead there is always belief.

"I'm sure that the people of Liverpool are probably happy with the draw and hopefully we can use that to our advantage.

"You never know in football. We have a lot of good players here.

I played against Torres this summer and I think I did pretty well

Oguchi Onyewu
"Obviously, the Belgian league is not as respected as the Premier League but I feel that we have quality players that can possibly make a difference on any given day."

Onyewu spent three months on loan at Newcastle from January 2007 and helped the Magpies to a 2-1 win over the Reds in his first home game for the Tyneside outfit.

And, although he has tasted victory over Liverpool, he has played down any significance of that game.

"Any win against Liverpool is going to be a big win but for me it was so because it was my first start at home and first win with them," said the United States international.

"It will always stay a big souvenir for me in terms of my Newcastle experience. But that is in the past and I tend not to dwell on the past too much and try to concentrate on the future.

"A lot has changed at Liverpool. A lot of different players have come into that team."

One player who Onyewu has faced more recently is Liverpool striker Fernando Torres and he is wary of the threat the Spaniard poses.

Standard Liege and United States centre-back Oguchi Oneywu
Oneywu spent a brief spell on loan at Newcastle
"Fernando Torres is a great player and I had the opportunity to play against him this summer when the US played against Spain," said Onyewu.

"It was 1-0 to Spain. Torres played the first half and at the end of that it was 0-0.

"Personally, I think I defended pretty well against him, although he was also coming off an injury so he probably wasn't at 100%.

"He has a lot of different tricks in his arsenal and you have to be on your toes at all times and concentrate.

"But there is not just one player that we have to be aware of, it is the whole squad."

Onyewu was not signed permanently by the Magpies but believes he has improved since his spell in the top flight and wants another crack at the Premier League.

"I've always said that my ambitions are to leave Belgium for a bigger league. If that be England then that would be great," he said.

"I've matured a lot and progressed in a lot of different factors and aspects of my game since 2007.

"I feel as though I had a short stint in order to adapt to the style of the Premier League.

"Sometimes it takes players six to eight months to get used to the Premier League style.

"I feel as though I didn't have adequate time to really showcase what I am capable of doing. Perhaps, next time around I'll get that opportunity."

see also
Standard Liege v Liverpool
12 Aug 08 |  Europe
Newcastle sign US defender Onyewu
30 Jan 07 |  Newcastle
Newcastle 2-1 Liverpool
10 Feb 07 |  Premier League
Onyewu looking to make an impact
02 Feb 07 |  Newcastle
Onyewu is US player of the year
27 Dec 06 |  African

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