Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes a top four finish is “absolutely, absolutely” a realistic aim for the 12-placed club and says he is taking heart from the fact that nobody has pulled away in fourth spot.
“Let’s be honest – it is a big ask; a massive ask,” said Rodgers, ahead of his side’s meeting with Southampton at Anfield today. “But [fourth] has to be our target. We are going to look to try and get as close to that as we possibly can.
Rodgers, whose side are 10 points off fourth-placed West Bromwich Albion, was bullish about the club’s potential activity in the January transfer market, at the end of a week in which he agreed that the managerial uncertainty at Stamford Bridge may make a move for Daniel Sturridge easier. Liverpool are confident of finalising a £6m deal for Blackpool’s Tom Ince as well as adding Sturridge for a further £12m.
Asked if he was looking at one or two signings or as much as he could achieve, Rodgers replied: “As much as I can do, really. [But] we have got a real good group here. I have always thought that if you have three-and-a-half goal-scorers in your team, you have got a chance. We have got Luis Suarez. Steven Gerrard will get goals. He has been terrific this season and taken on an even greater responsibility with the juniors. But he will get goals. There is no question of that. If we can add a couple more that you know are goal-scorers, who instinctively get into the box and get goals, with the domination that we are having in games, then we have got a chance in the second half of the season. We are going into a month that if we can
Lucas Leiva is expected to make his long-awaited return return today, having been rested from the rigours of the midweek game at Tottenham to be ready for a game which Rodgers needs to win. That will provide rigour and free Gerrard to advance more, after a disappointing few months by his standards.
Another of the disappointments for Rodgers has been Nuri Sahin, who has not proved tp be the stand-out player who was expected when he opted for Anfield rather than the Emirates, arriving on loan from Real Madrid this summer. The manager admitted that the tempo of the Premier League was something the 24-year-old was struggling to adapt to.
“His attitude has been first class. I always look at the midfield players and their goals and assists. I look at tackles won and with Nuri he has come in and played more games than he has probably thought. But he is a good guy who is working hard. It is just about the balance really. I don’t think he has struggled with the physical side of it. He has played in Germany. It’s just the tempo here is greater. You have to respect that he has come back from nearly a year out of it. This first six months he has played quite a number of games. I have had a chance to assess him and see where he is at. But if you are out of the team, you just have to continue to work hard. If your chance comes, you have to take it.”
Liverpool’s lack of a striker has clearly contributed to them slipping four points behind Swansea City and three points behind Stoke City in the Premier League, but Rodgers insisted that this had not been a wasted five months.
“I would never say managing this club is a waste,” he said. “I’ve got to say it’s been a privilege here and I’ve learned a lot. I spoke to Stevie [Gerrard] after Tottenham and he said it was the best Liverpool have played there in 12 years going to White Hart Lane. That shows you with the lack of experience in the group but it’s also about getting results and I have total faith that we will do that. As I said, from the first six months, it was really about improving that unity in the group, trying to find different solutions. I believe that will grow even more. We are creating enough pressure and getting enough of the ball. If we can the right profile of players… the last five months have highlighted the need for that even more. If we get one or two to finish it off we can go on a great run.”
Liverpool face what they would historically have considered to be an easy run until mid-January - meeting West Ham, Aston Villa, Fulham, Stoke City, QPR and Sunderland before they meet Manchester United at Old Trafford on January 13.