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Page last updated at 07:30 GMT, Thursday, 16 September 2010 08:30 UK

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson defends start to season

Europa League
Venue: Anfield Date: Thursday 16 September Kick-off: 2005 BST Coverage: Live text commentary on BBC Sport website and Channel Five

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Torres can handle criticism - Hodgson

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson has defended the start his team have made since he succeeded Rafael Benitez in July.

The Reds face Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League on Thursday, with Hodgson having guided Fulham to the final of that competition last season.

And he said: "We've played eight, won five, drawn two and lost one.

"I don't think that's a bad start to the season by any stretch of the imagination. It is a new team and it has been a tough start to the season."

Liverpool have scored only twice in the opening four Premier League games, with star striker Fernando Torres looking out of sorts, and they are set to visit Manchester United on Sunday.

Hodgson pointed to a number of factors that have made the start of his reign on Merseyside difficult.

He added: "Of course, it is a time of transition, which is always difficult -even if there is no change in the club itself.

"When you move and a lot of players have left or have been in danger of leaving and there are new players coming in; when you have the documented problem we have off the field in regards to ownership and a World Cup year, it all adds up."

I want to be in that team - whether he puts me as a goalie or a striker, it doesn't matter

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger

And the former Fulham boss was quick to respond to criticism of Torres, stating at his pre-match press conference: "He certainly isn't fed up. Criticism is something we all have to live with.

"We bear strong expectations at this club. Everyone is interested in us - we fill newspapers, we fill airtime and everything that happens at the club is put under a microscope, and that includes players' performances.

"Fernando Torres has got no problems with that - he's an excellent player, he's very much committed and focused on this season.

"I think it's very wrong for people to try to read into people's states of mind from watching them play 90 minutes of football. I think you'd have to be some wonder psychologist to be able to do that."

Hodgson also revealed that Daniel Agger will be returning to his preferred position at centre-back after filling in at left-back earlier in the season.

"There has never been any question that we don't know what his best position is," said the 62-year-old.

"It is a question of getting your best players on the field and sometimes it is about getting players to play out of position in order to put the best team out.

"Now we have a specialist left-back [Paul Konchesky] we can forgo Daniel as a left-back and use him more as a centre-back.

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"That was not the case at the beginning of the season when we didn't have anyone who I thought was more suitable than Daniel."

The Dane, who was left out of Saturday's 0-0 draw at Birmingham, is determined to make the most of his chance against Steaua on Thursday.

"I was not happy [to miss the game against Birmingham] because I want to play but it is not my decision and I have to accept it," said the 25-year-old.

"I just have to work hard and improve but I need to use the games I get to show the boss I am good enough to play.

"I want to be in that team. That is the most important thing for me - whether he puts me as a goalie or a striker, it doesn't matter."

Steaua coach Ilie Dumitrescu, who was signed by Tottenham on the back of his World Cup performances for Romania in 1994, believes Liverpool go into the Group K game as favourites.

The 41-year-old, who also had a brief spell with West Ham United in 1996, said: "I am very happy to be back in England as a coach and this is a very special match and a big challenge for me.

"Liverpool are favourites in this group, by far."



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see also
Reds boss Hodgson defends Torres
13 Sep 10 |  Premier League
Liverpool 4-1 Steaua Bucharest
16 Sep 10 |  Europe


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