Despite their troublesome start to the season, Brendan Rodgers remains confident that Liverpool will finish in the top four.
Inspired by the brilliance of Luis Suarez, the Reds came within a whisker of winning a first league title since 1990 last term, only just missing out to Manchester City by two points. However, the Uruguayan international left for Barcelona in a £75million during the summer, and it is fair to say that despite bringing in a number of new faces, they have yet to recover from his loss.
Indeed, ahead of their clash with Stoke City on Saturday afternoon, the Anfield club are closer to the bottom of the table than they are the top. They have managed to win just a third of their 12 matches thus far, and six defeats have contributed to their current standing of 12th place – just six-points more than bottom side Queens Park Rangers and 18 behind leaders Chelsea.
With Southampton threatening to upset the trend by securing a top-four finish due to their excellent start, and Manchester United likely to improve under Louis van Gaal, there is a real danger that Liverpool could finish outside of the UEFA Champions League places this term. However, Rodgers certainly doesn’t subscribe to this theory, as he retains full confidence in his players.
“I have an inherent belief we can still make the top four, absolutely,” said Rodgers. “I know what we are all capable of here and for whatever reason it hasn’t happened for us as yet but our standards will go up now. No matter how we have been we are still within touching distance and that is the initial aim – fourth and then moving forward. We are only five points off it so we have every chance of doing it.”
Liverpool are currently five points behind fourth-place United, so there is no margin for error when Stoke arrive at Anfield. Potters manager Mark Hughes has no doubt that the Reds are missing the impact of Suarez, and also feels they have suffered this season due to the absence of Daniel Sturridge, the England striker, who will remain on the treatment table until the New Year.
“When you lose the services of two strikers such as Suarez and Sturridge then it’s going to impact on you,” said Hughes. “There were only three players in the Premier League last season who scored more than 20 goals, and Liverpool had two of them. So that shows where their season was built, on the back of two outstanding strikers. It’s going to take a big part of their game away from them.”
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