Brendan Rodgers is familiar to the Chelsea turf, and to the ‘Special One’, Liverpool FC manager having spent time as the youth team coach at Chelsea during Mourinho’s first spell in charge at the London club.
In the pre-match press conference, both the managers went on to praise each other. Rodgers hailed Chelsea’s squad quality and strength and admitted that Liverpool will have a tough outing:
Chelsea have a lot of quality. They are a club that over the last 10 years has been up there as one of the most successful in the country and in Europe. How they’ve been building up that squad and that team and how they’ve changed it has been remarkable really. I think we saw it earlier on in the season, when they changed the team for the cup game against Arsenal. It was a totally different XI, but it was a really good performance which got them a result there. So it shows you the strength of the club that they can do that. But they’ve got a host of talented players and a world-class manager. So we understand how difficult it’ll be.
Mourinho, on the other hand, went on the extents of calling Liverpool genuine ‘title-contenders’, but mainly because of the club’s ‘European holiday’. Rodgers was quick to catch on Mourinho’s mind game and responded:
Don’t worry, I know all the games. The mind games do not affect me. He is a good man and we communicate a lot.
Both the managers were high on praises for each other as well. Mourinho had this to say:
The manager is one of my best friends in the game. So no rivalry. Full respect for a team with the history like Liverpool. Brendan is doing fantastically but he is training every week in a calm way, every day, maybe twice a day, which is a big, big advantage. He needs to work well but he has a big advantage in the way you build your team.
Rodgers did not shy away from praising the man who taught him everything:
I probably wouldn’t be sat here today if it wasn’t for him. When I speak and hear about Jose, it’s first and foremost as a friend. From that moment (hiring the Northern Irishman) in time he gave me the self-esteem and the confidence that has prepared me greatly for the role that I am in today. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot of good people in football and I’ve learned a lot from many people, but the one thing I got from Jose was the details. I described him at the time as the best day-to-day organizer in world football and I was very fortunate to have worked with someone of that caliber for just over three years. I really learned from him. He probably didn’t know it, but I used to stand at the back of press conferences for a couple of years to see how he dealt with media.
Asked to assess what makes a title-winning side, he said:
It’s about dealing with mistakes and getting over bad results quickly. That’s what we will be looking to do on Sunday. We definitely proved we can match City. Not many teams can go there and play the way we did and dominate the possession. We had some good chances and were disappointed we didn’t get more than we did. We played fantastic. It was a big marker, especially when you consider some of the performances they have put in against the top sides at the Etihad.
Brendan Rodgers took over the reigns of Liverpool after the club finished a shock eighth in Kenny’s second year, or first full year of his second reign, in charge. The Merseyside club was in shambles, it was the victim of the mockery of the rest of the Premier League’s fans, players, managers alike.
Rodgers first year in charge- the club finished second year in a row in the same place- seventh, behind Merseyside rivals Everton. Rodgers had a dismal summer transfer window, where he loaned Andy Carroll, and failed to land Clint Dempsey. His first game in charge- Liverpool lost to Steve Clarke’s West Bromwich Albion 3-0. People were quick to point the door to the Northern Irishman. However credit must be given to FSG for sticking behind the 40 year old, when as evident by the ongoing sackings of manager, owners are very quick to fire the man who doesn’t give quick results. Come 2013, things started to turn around for the club. A successful winter transfer window was the main last piece in puzzle. Even though the eventual standing of the Reds was clearly below par, the club started playing attractive football in the latter half of the season, they started beating the teams they were meant to, and the belief started setting in.
Liverpool FC has been the most impressive phenomenon this season. The Merseyside outfit has not fallen once out of the top 4. The club won when Suarez was suspended, won when Sturridge was out with injury, and is winning even without Steven Gerrard (barring the match against City, in which Liverpool was very unlucky with bad refereeing).
Brendan Rodgers deserves a lot, if not all the credit for taking the club out of the mid table mediocracy and reinstating it where it deserves to be. Holding on to Luis Suarez in the summer, when the player clearly wanted an out, when offers were pouring in from everywhere, was a difficult task and Rodgers successfully did that. The importance of Suarez in Liverpool is immense, and if Liverpool is able to play in the Champions League next season, the Uruguayan will probably stay with the Reds. A lot of credit could also be given to Mourinho, the man who taught Rodgers the skills of being a good manager.
The animosity which was the theme of clashes between Chelsea and Liverpool during the times when Rafa Benitez was in charge of the Reds, and Jose Mourinho of the Blues, will not envelope Stamford Bridge tomorrow. Instead, a good footballing encounter awaits two of the best sides in the Premier League.