Brendan Rodgers insists a title challenge was never on the cards for Liverpool this season, but thinks it will be a different story next time round.
Not even the most ardent Reds supporter would have backed the Anfield club to end their long wait for the title at the beginning of the 2013/14 campaign, but the Merseyside club had a sensational season and finished just two points behind champions Manchester City. However, they lost their star player, Luis Suarez, to Barcelona for £75million during the summer.
Although Rodgers was able to use this money – and then some – to bolster his squad, the truth is they have not yet recovered from the departure of their talismanic frontman. So the Liverpool head coach is not surprised his side have failed to mount another bid for the title this term, although he feels they will be back amongst the contenders for the crown next season.
“With so many changes we weren’t going to challenge for the league,” he said. “We were looking to win a trophy and then come next summer we will be ready to challenge for the title again. This year was about getting into the top four, trying to minimise the impact of so many new signings, giving them time to develop and target a trophy in the cup competitions. Come the summer that period of integration should be complete and we can challenge for the title like we did last season.”
Liverpool have slowly improved as the season has gone on, and their aim of a top-four finish is back in focus as they stand in eighth position just five points behind Manchester United. As for adding more silverware to their honours list, they meet Chelsea next week for a place in the League Cup final, and Bolton Wanderers in the FA Cup fourth round this weekend. And despite an early exit from the UEFA Champions League, they will compete in the UEFA Europa League next month.
Meanwhile, Rodgers is confident Raheem Sterling will soon sign a new contract to extend his stay at Anfield. The England international has emerged as not only one of the key first team players at the club, but also one of the most promising talents in Europe. The 20-year-old has been linked with Real Madrid, but his current manager is sure he will remain on Merseyside.
“It is something the club are speaking with his representatives on and I would think that would be concluded imminently,” Rodgers said of the former Queens Park Rangers youngster, who has scored 15 goals in 81 league appearances “The player is very happy and it (the delay) is nothing to do with Raheem. He wants to be here, so hopefully we get the solution on that very soon.”
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