Festive period crucial for Liverpool says Jose Reina
Liverpool's record-breaking goalkeeper Jose Reina believes the club's top-four chances could well hinge on a successful festive period.
The visit of Fulham tomorrow is the first of three home matches in four fixtures - the other being a Boxing Day trip to Blackpool.
Form at Anfield has masked troubles on the road with 17 of their 22-point tally being secured on home territory.
Since their shock defeat to Blackpool in early October Liverpool, who were today drawn with Sparta Prague in the last 32 of the Europa League, have won four successive Barclays Premier League matches at Anfield.
The Cottagers, Wolves and Bolton all have to travel to Merseyside in the next three weeks and Reina believes they have to take full advantage if they are to close the current nine-point gap to fourth-placed Chelsea.
"We know it's a critical moment in the season. Every year Christmas time is huge," said the Spain international, who on his last Anfield appearance beat Ray Clemence's record in reaching 100 league clean sheets in the fastest time.
"There are 12 points just around the corner for us. They are tough but winnable games so it's a time to get ourselves back on track.
"The top four is realistic - that's realistic to talk about now.
"We have to beat Fulham and let's see how the Christmas period ends, then in January we can see where we're aiming for."
Reina, who will make his 200th Premier League appearance tomorrow, accepts the squad have failed to meet expectations so far this season but insists they still have time to turn things around.
And he has been encouraged by recent displays, even taking into account the performance in last weekend's 3-1 defeat at Newcastle.
"I'm seeing a lot of desire among the staff and players," added the 28-year-old.
"The club has a lot of history and we know we haven't been good enough so far this season.
"We aim and we hope with our daily work to get back to the old days and get higher in the table.
"We have been playing better over the last month.
"We are more into the manager's ideas, we're getting into the philosophy.
"It's now about getting the results as well as the performances and also we have to recognise we badly need to improve, especially away from home."
Manager Roy Hodgson hopes to be able to use their impressive recent home form, which includes a 2-0 victory over then league leaders Chelsea, to build a platform for the remainder of the season.
"We know we have a lot of work to do. We know we want to win more matches and get ourselves higher up the table," said the 63-year-old, who will face the club he left in the summer for the first time tomorrow.
"Luckily our form at Anfield in the Premier League is good and we have won our last four and we have also beaten Napoli (in the Europa League).
"That is five good wins that buoy us and give us some confidence and hope.
"After every defeat managers and players' first intention and hope is to bounce straight back and return to winning ways.
"The opponent does not make it an ideal match but the occasion - we are playing at home against another Premier League team - makes it the ideal opportunity.
"But we know Fulham are a difficult team to beat and we have enormous respect for them."
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