Liverpool title run-in: Gerard Houllier says 'very astute' Brendan Rodgers will deliver Premier League crown

Frenchman memorably won the cup Treble with the Reds in 2001

Former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier believes it is more difficult to win the title than it was in his day, but reckons his old club will end their 24-year wait to lift a league title.

Brendan Rodgers' side are five points clear of Chelsea - visitors to Anfield next week - at top of the Barclays Premier League table with three matches to go and are now favourites for the championship.

Houllier never managed to get his side over the line in six years he was in charge, despite famously winning a cup treble in 2001.

He accepts it is a much tougher prospect nowadays, but has no doubts the Reds will see it through.

"Yes, Brendan will win the title because he has three games and the team has got consistency and a lot of confidence about them," said the Frenchman, speaking after the Celebration of the 96 sell-out charity game between a local and international Liverpool teams, which raised money for the Hillsborough Family Support Group and the Liverpool FC Foundation.

"They go forward and will always score goals and they want it so badly that they will finish even stronger.

"I very much appreciate Brendan's philosophy and his management and I like the man as much as I like the manager - he is a tracksuit coach and this is what we like in France. Tactically, he is very astute.

 

"I think it is even more difficult to win the title now because you have clubs like Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal who are big clubs with big histories and also sometimes bigger means.

"You can't have a better trophy for the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster than the league trophy.

"I understand some of the players have that on their minds as well.

"Some of us came close - myself and Rafael Benitez - but we didn't manage to win, so hats off to the players and Brendan, who has led his team marvellously well."

If the length of time since Liverpool had won the title needed any highlighting, it was apparent from the waistlines of the former players on show.

Only the recently retired Michael Owen and Luis Garcia, the perma-thin Steve McManaman and the pristine Jamie Redknapp looked anywhere near close to their playing physique.

John Barnes, Jan Molby, Steve McMahon, David Burrows and Ian Rush were all in the squad which clinched the club's last title against QPR at Anfield almost 24 years to the day.

Barnes almost rolled back the years with a deft curling 25-yard shot just over Sander Westerveld's crossbar but it was Robbie Fowler who scored in front of his adoring Kop to give the local side a half-time advantage.

Fowler had earlier been denied by the goalkeeper while Owen headed against the crossbar and Burrows nodded wide.

Luis Garcia had three good chances for the international side, with Bruno Cheyrou and Vladimir Smicer also denied by David James, who was eventually beaten by a Smicer shot significantly deflected by Michael Thomas.

Cheyrou scored what he thought was the winner but, when the international team's celebrity guest John Bishop had a late penalty saved, Fowler equalised from the spot with the last kick of the game.

PA

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