Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers declared on Monday that his relationship with Jose Mourinho has become one of rivalry, and no longer friendship, as he seeks to block his old mentor’s quest to break a trophy drought in the League Cup semi-final at Anfield.
The Chelsea manager gave a 30-year-old Rodgers his break in football, as Chelsea’s youth-team coach from 2004, and the Northern Irishman used their three years together as an education, standing at the back of Mourinho’s press conferences and using some of his management strategies.
But the competition created by the two going head-to-head for silverware created a clash between them last season, when Rodgers accused Mourinho of parking “two Chelsea buses” at Anfield in the 2-0 away win which proved decisive in Liverpool not clinching a first title in 24 years. Ahead of Tuesday’s game, in which Mourinho seeks progress towards a first trophy since returning to Stamford Bridge, Rodgers said the contact between the two of them had waned.
“[There’s] probably not as much contact, [though] the respect has not left,” Rodgers said. “The opportunity to work with him in that period of three and a bit years was invaluable to me and, hopefully, in some ways I helped him as well because we had a lot of communication. But, of course, when you’re fighting for the same competition, the friendship… I have a huge respect for him, wonderful man, coach, but in time you are so engrossed in your own work, you don’t communicate as much, you don’t have the conversations you had before and ultimately you could be a rival.”
Rodgers, who revealed that Liverpool’s delicate negotiations with Lille to secure the services of Divock Origi six months earlier than planned have failed, will not have the former Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge available for a comeback from injury.
But with Steven Gerrard likely to return to the side, Rodgers said he wanted to resolve the problem of below-par performances against the Premier League leaders. “We don’t like to lose and it doesn’t matter who against, but I think in particular against Chelsea we haven’t played as well as we would have liked,” he said. “The [2-1 home defeat] at Christmas we were off the back of a Manchester City game, and I think they had the benefits of what a strong squad looked like at that time of the season. The game last season was disappointing, of course, for obvious reasons.”
Liverpool, who have not lost since 14 December, look regalvanised with their more pragmatic 3-4-2-1 formation and are in good spirits for the semi-final of a tournament they have a good record in. “At this moment in time it is a different feeling, a different aggression, a different mood that is in the squad so, hopefully, we can go into these two games and be positive,” Rodgers reflected. His side have lost once in 14 games in all competitions.
The Liverpool manager is again likely to be without Mario Balotelli – said by Rodgers to have been suffering last week with a chest infection, which ruled him out of the weekend match at Aston Villa and left him feeling unwell again on Monday. The manager spoke of the need to return regular silverware to Liverpool – creating an appreciation of what winning it feels like that can drive the team on.
“It’s that taste of success that, hopefully, pushes them on,” he said of his players. “We have worked really hard in the majority of the two and a half years, but we are here to win and, as I said, we are a club that is synonymous with winning trophies. We want to get that back again and, hopefully, we can do that this season.”Reuse content