Johnson defends Liverpool’s ‘attitude’

Liverpool defender Glen Johnson insists the players have the desire to succeed after their attitude was questioned by both their manager and former players.

The 1-0 defeat at Wigan on Monday featured one of the worst 45-minute performances seen by a Liverpool team in recent years and left manager Rafael Benitez fuming.

He questioned the mentality of his players and that was an issue also raised by former Reds midfielder Jimmy Case.

However, Johnson – who as a second-half substitute avoided the worst of it all – stressed the squad were still up for the fight and intended to prove it against Lille in their Europa League last-16 first leg tie on Thursday.

"Obviously it (Wigan) was a disappointing performance but we have put it behind us and are looking forward to the game tomorrow," said the England international, who made his first appearance since late December at the DW Stadium after a knee injury.

"It is difficult to explain. Those things can happen and all the lads who were there were disappointed more than anyone else.

"But everyone has a bad day at the office sometimes. Usually it is one or two players and the rest of the lads will pull them through but when there is more than that it is difficult.

"Wigan set out to make it difficult for us and at the end of the day we weren’t up to it.

"But the desire is there. We still have things to fight for and I’m with the lads every day so I know for sure they have a desire to win."

Benitez sought to gloss over the deficiencies at Wigan, just repeating that the first half was not good enough, and focused on the task of tackling their French opponents.

However, they have a formidable record at the Lille Metropole, where they have lost just once in Ligue 1 since the opening day of the season on August 9.

In their last nine home league matches Lille have scored 25 goals, while their European record has seen them lose just one of the last 16 fixtures at home – to Manchester United in the 2006/7 Champions League.

"Every single game is a priority for us and this is the first one for us so it is the most important," said the Spaniard.

"In football you have to think about one day at a time. We will try to do our best in this competition and then start to think about the Premier League.

"Lille are a good team. They have pace, ability and players with quality. Also, at home they are doing well.

"They have not done too well in their last two games (a defeat and a draw) but maybe they are focused on this Europa League game.

"It will be tough."

Liverpool will be without midfielder Yossi Benayoun as he failed a fitness test on an ankle injury sustained against Wigan.