Brendan Rodgers talks up progress at Liverpool despite continued efforts to make signings

There could yet be new arrivals at Anfield this summer

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers may still be looking for new players but he already feels his team have come a long way.

Rodgers is hoping to steer the Reds back into the Champions League for the first time since 2010 and has said he would like to add to the five summer signings he has already made.

But the Northern Irishman was hugely encouraged by the performance in last week's season-opening win over Stoke and is happy with the improvement since taking over a year ago.

Rodgers, whose side finished seventh in the Barclays Premier League last season, said: "In order to be a winner you have to have the belief. That was something last year we were maybe not able to find consistently.

"But we have picked up a lot. The group has grown over time. It might only have been a small thing last week, but to get that win shows the development mentally.

"I can only speak highly of the players. They are the ones doing the work, they are the ones being driven and asked. To get that last week was very important for us.

"Whatever transfer talk or speculation there has been this week, the bottom line is there are some outstanding players here - top, top players.

"They will hopefully keep finding the ways to win games and hopefully we will add to the squad alongside them."

Rodgers has indicated he may look for a central defender before the September 2 transfer deadline while recent, albeit fruitless, interest in Willian indicates a desire to bring in an exciting attack-minded player.

Liverpool impressed against Stoke although they scored only one goal through Daniel Sturridge and it needed a late penalty save from Simon Mignolet to preserve the win.

Rodgers said: "It was a really good win for us. Stoke are a very tough team to break down.

"The performance level was very good and we got the three points besides that, which is the most important element."

The Reds will hope to carry forward their confidence into this weekend's trip to Aston Villa.

Rodgers is preparing for a difficult encounter given that Villa, who last season survived a scrape with relegation, have shown vibrancy in their opening games against Arsenal and Chelsea.

Rodgers said: "I very much expect for them to have a very good season this year.

"They are very much a counter-attacking team. They set up to defend half a pitch and then they break out with pace - (Christian) Benteke and (Gabriel) Agbonlahor in particular.

"There is no doubt Benteke is the real reference point for the team. The ball goes up to him and he holds it up well. He is a big powerful boy.

"Andreas Weimann makes good runs and has a knack for a goal.

"It is about trying to control the counter-attack. They are very fast, energetic players.

"But our focus is really on our own game. Our mind is very good at the moment. The players are continuing from last season and we just want to keep that going."

Liverpool continue without Luis Suarez, who is now halfway through the 10-match ban he received last season.

The controversial forward's future remains uncertain even though Liverpool remain steadfast in their determination not to sell and the player is back in training after his recent calls to leave.

Rodgers is pleased with the way the rest of his squad have not been affected by the summer-long saga concerning the Uruguayan.

He said: "It is safe to say of any distractions or speculation, we have controlled that, and focused on performing well on the training ground, finding ways to be better every day and taking that into the games.

"We will go into this game with good confidence but expecting Aston Villa to be a good team and we'll have to work hard to get a result."

PA

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