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Reina: top-four finish may be beyond Liverpool

it could be a long old season at Anfield as none other than Pepe Reina was willing to admit yesterday in the wake of the latest underwhelming performance from Liverpool, their goalless draw at Birmingham City on Sunday. And as such, their goalkeeper has asked the club's supporters to show a little patience, not behaviour synonymous with the average fan.

Roy Hodgson's side were fortunate to leave St Andrew's with a point and largely owed that return to Reina's goalkeeping. They are already seven points adrift of leaders Chelsea after just four matches and face a fight to regain entry to the Champions League.

"We have to make sure that people don't think of winning the League or being in the top four already at this moment," Reina said. "It is going to take a while. We have got to get used to the new players and then the system. There are many good teams and our target is to be up there but we have to be realistic.

"Is a Champions League spot realistic this season? I don't know. We will find out at the end of the season what we can achieve. Of course, we have to challenge for being up there. Maybe it will take a while. No one has patience nowadays. We are just asking for a little bit. We did not spend much money and, in football, to compete with the others, sometimes it is important to do it.

"We couldn't. We sold some players and we used the money for buying some others. It's going to be like this for a little while until we sort out the situation with the owners. All we believe is that we have to win the next game and the game after and don't think about the end of the season. April and May is the time to talk about targets."

While Liverpool try to keep a lid on expectations, Birmingham's keep rising and their manager, Alex McLeish, believes it is in part down to the performances of their midfielder Craig Gardner and the striker James McFadden, who are benefiting from playing regular first-team football.

"You are now seeing the development of Gardner because he has not played regularly in the Premier League in all his time at Aston Villa before he came here," McLeish said. "It can be tough on a player physically. James McFadden also played his first full season in England last season. In the previous seasons, he was injured when he came here when we were in the Premier League and then in the Championship. With Everton, over three or four years, he never played a full season. These guys will benefit from being involved."

McLeish also defended McFadden after he came in for criticism for his performance in Scotland's Euro 2012 qualifier with Liechtenstein. "McFadden answered a few critics with the performance he gave against Liverpool," he said.

"Not only that, he did a shift to try and augment the midfield, getting back in there working. McFadden got a bit of criticism in Scotland but he is allowed to have a bad game now and then.

"He has been a talisman for Scotland for so long and it didn't go well for him the other night. But to suggest he is not a worker, he is lazy, is nonsense."