Brendan Rodgers has dismissed suggestions that he and his Liverpool players can’t cope with the pressure of being involved in a title race.
Only Manchester United, with 20, have won more league titles than the Anfield club’s record of 18, but not since 1990 have the red half of Merseyside been bestowed with such an honour. That looked like changing last season, when Rodgers and his team embarked on a remarkable run which placed them in pole position in the closing weeks of the campaign.
However, with glory well and truly within their grasp, they fell to a 2-0 defeat against Chelsea which was followed days later by the surrender of a 3-0 lead at Crystal Palace. This allowed Manchester City to assume control of the race, and when they eased past West Ham United on the final day, they secured a second title in three years by two points.
This led to accusations that Liverpool ‘bottled’ the chance of a first title in 24 years, and that their players couldn’t handle the pressures demanded from being involved in the race. However, ahead of their visit to the Etihad Stadium to face the champions, Rodgers has dismissed such a suggestion, insisting his players have already proved their mental strength.
“People talk about the run-in and the pressure and all of that, but in the last 14 games we won 12, drew one and lost one and the one loss was so unfortunate,” he said in The Guardian. “We had actually played really well and then just before half time Stevie [Gerrard] slips [against Chelsea]. That has nothing to do with winning the title, it’s just a slip. You go one-nil down and it is difficult. For 70 minutes we knocked on the door but I didn’t have depth then to change the game, I didn’t have the squad to reverse the personnel. Of course, it helps when you have won it before but it wasn’t about [Manchester City’s] experience.”
Unlike last season, the Reds are also planning for their UEFA Champions League return this term. Rodgers has added more strength to his squad by signing Southampton trio Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno (Sevilla), Lazar Markovic, (Benfica), Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen), and Javier Manquillo (Atletico Madrid). Of course, the loss of Luis Suarez, who joined Barcelona for a fee of around £65million, cannot be underestimated, but a deal for Milan striker Mario Balotelli should be wrapped up within hours.
The controversial yet sometimes brilliant Italian, who helped City win the FA Cup in 2011 and the Premier League title the following year, completed his medical on Merseyside last Friday and is set to return on Monday to finalise the transfer. This will, obviously, be too late for him to play against his former club in the evening, but it is believed he could be in attendance as last season’s top-two come head-to-head in Manchester.
Liverpool fans, do you worry that last season’s heartbreak could haunt your players should they be involved in the title race again this time round? Let us know what you think by joining in the discussion below!