Manchester City v Liverpool: Starting XI 'can compete' with the best, says Glen Johnson
The table toppers face their toughest test of the season on Boxing Day
Tuesday 24 December 2013
Defender Glen Johnson insists Liverpool have a first-choice XI which is a match for any of their bigger-spending rivals.
The Barclays Premier League leaders face tough trips to Manchester City on Boxing Day and, three days later, Chelsea - both clubs who have far greater financial resources than the Merseysiders.
However, in addition to being top of the table, the Reds have the league's leading scorer in Luis Suarez spearheading their attack.
The Uruguay international has 10 goals in his last four matches, has failed to score in only one of his last seven appearances and since the start of last season has scored 49 goals in 57 games in all competitions and 42 in 45 league fixtures.
He requires only one to become the first Liverpool player to score 20 league goals in the top flight before the new year since Jack Balmer in 1946-47.
Liverpool also have fellow striker Daniel Sturridge and captain Steven Gerrard to come back from injury in the next month and although that will not come soon enough for the tests against their top-four rivals, Johnson is confident they will be competitive for two crucial matches.
"We take each game as it comes but if we can go to White Hart Lane and perform like we did there (winning 5-0) is no reason why we can't win these games," he told Press Association Sport.
"In terms of the starting XI I think we can compete. It is just getting it right on the day and everyone performing to the best we can.
"If we can do that we can cause anyone problems, it doesn't matter how much money they spend."
If Liverpool have a weakness it is when they have to look outside their primary first-choice side for replacements.
Young right-back Jon Flanagan is currently playing on the left of the defence because of injury to Jose Enrique and the unsuitability of loan signing Aly Cissokho while they are light in central midfield.
Johnson accepts they do not have the numbers other teams may have but believes there is a greater team spirit in their smaller unit.
"We all know we need much more than our starting XI, I think we have some great players around the squad that know that," he added.
"With some clubs anyone who is not starting may get the hump, not train well and throw their toys out a bit.
"Whereas we have got good lads and good professionals around who people realise they have to wait their turn.
"But we have been using a few different formations so it gives a few people an opportunity to play and because everyone knows they are on the verge of playing it keeps the squad tighter together rather than having the same XI every single week."
Liverpool's progress to the top has surprised many and doubts persist whether they can maintain it throughout a whole campaign.
But the last four sides to be top on Christmas Day have gone on to win the title - Liverpool were the last not to do it in 2008 when they finished runners-up to Manchester United.
The changes manager Brendan Rodgers has implemented since taking over from club icon Kenny Dalglish in the summer of 2012 have come to fruition this campaign, having shown an upturn in fortunes from January.
With many of Liverpool's rivals - City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Everton and now Tottenham - having changed their manager for this season Johnson feels they have a slight advantage.
"Usually when clubs get a new manager the first season is not what everyone wants. Usually it comes out more in the second seasons," he added.
"It is a transition period for a lot of teams so maybe we have the extra year on a few and the way things are going at the moment if we can keep taking things week by week I think we can be dangerous."
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