Liverpool must cut out inconsistency says Stewart Downing

Reds have European football in sight

Winger Stewart Downing admits Liverpool cannot afford to allow the inconsistency which has dogged their season return with European football now firmly in their sights.

Victory over Tottenham at the weekend made it three successive Barclays Premier League wins for the first time since May 2011.

The result moved them to within two points of Arsenal, in fifth, and seven adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea, although both clubs have a match in hand.

With games to come against Southampton, Aston Villa, West Ham and Reading - all in the bottom nine - a good run could put Brendan Rodgers' side in an even stronger position by the time former Reds boss Rafael Benitez returns to Anfield with Chelsea on April 21.

"We said it was always going to be tough but we set ourselves the little task of trying to win as many games as we could in the last 10 and that's three in a row now so we've got a chance," Downing told Press Association Sport.

"We've got some winnable games but that's easier said than done. We have to go and win them but from the way we are playing I think we can beat anyone.

"The teams in and around that top half are playing each other so obviously some are going to slip up and drop points and the thing for us is to take each game as it comes and see where we finish."

There is a clear feeling there has been progress made under Rodgers, particularly since January and the form guide backs that up.

After his first 14 matches in charge (up to the end of November) Liverpool had just 16 points and were 12th in the table.

In the subsequent 15 they have collected 29, bettered only by Manchester United and Spurs - and have moved up to sixth.

Downing expects that to continue throughout the remainder of this campaign and, with new recruits arriving in the summer, into the next.

"I think getting everyone back fit, getting our strongest players out there, has helped with everyone in their proper positions," he added.

"I think everything is coming together. There were signs earlier in the season but it was always going to take time to click - now you are seeing some good signs.

"There was going to be a learning process this season, building for the future.

"If we can keep this squad together, add a few more and keep the big players, I think we have a hell of a chance."

A significant contribution has been made by Luis Suarez, who is the league's leading scorer with 21 and who has scored 12 in as many games since December 22.

"If you get players like him who are liable to get a goal out of anything you are always likely to win the game," said Downing.

"That is why he has been talked about as player of the year because every week he is there performing, getting a goal and that is what we need.

"It's not only his goals but he brings other people into play, he is a nightmare to play against with his twisting and turning and he proved that against Tottenham."

Downing himself has enjoyed a rejuvenation in his Liverpool career since the turn of the year - leading captain Steven Gerrard to describe him as a "different player".

The England international, who has scored in his last two matches, said it had helped him playing in a side full of confidence.

"It is certainly a shift playing in my position, getting up and down and trying to nick a goal," said the 28-year-old winger.

"But when the team as a whole plays so well it inspires everyone.

"We look a threat on the attack and we are looking a good team and hopefully we can finish as high as possible with nine games to go."

Injured defender Martin Kelly is hopeful he can make a return from knee surgery before the end of the season.

The 22-year-old has been sidelined since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in September but with Jamie Carragher due to retire at the end of the season Kelly has his sights set on the veteran defender's final farewell appearance at Anfield.

"It's a big incentive to be part of that day, whether it's playing or not," he told Liverpoolfc.com.

"I'm at the point now where I've been getting to do little ball drills and stuff without the ball - it's really promising for me at the moment and the medical staff are doing really well with my rehab.

"I'm getting stronger and stronger each day. We've had no setbacks so it's looking really promising."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
ESPN footage showed a split-screen Murray’s partner Kim Sears and Berdych’s partner Ester Satorova 'sporting' their jewellery
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee