Talking to the press ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash with Arsenal, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers revealed that defensive duo Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson are set to be back into his squad for full training next week.
Liverpool vice-captain Agger has not featured since he was withdrawn 10 minutes before the end of Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Oldham Athletic in the third round of the FA Cup in early January. Following the match at Anfield, scans concluded that the vice-captain had sustained a calf strain.
Full-back Johnson, meanwhile, last figured for the team during their pulsating 2-2 draw against Aston Villa at Anfield on January 18.
Asked whether Agger and Johnson would be fit to play a part against the Gunners at Anfield on Saturday, the manager responded:
“No, they’ll not be back for this one, but we’re hopeful that next week [they will be back].
“Glen Johnson is making a great recovery, so there might be a point towards the middle or end of next week [when he can return]. Daniel Agger will hopefully be next week at some stage.”
Rodgers also gave an update on the fitness of Mamadou Sakho, who has been out of action since he sustained a hamstring problem during the Reds’ narrow 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on December 29.
“Sakho is still out for a little bit, but apart from that we will be the same as what we have been for the weekend.”
Liverpool have built an impressive record at home, losing just once this season, but Rodgers admitted that the Gunners will provide one of their sternest tests of the campaign:
“Arsenal are leading the pack, they are top of the league and we are one of the sides who are chasing.
“It’s another big game for us.
“There are only 14 games to go and every game is critical between now and the end of the season.
“Every team will look at their rivals and see if they can take points off them. We know if we win the game we go to 50 points and we go five points behind Arsenal. So for us it’s a big game. But we will go into as we normally do and concentrate on our performance level. It’s about making sure the performance is right.”
Rodgers has been delighted with Liverpool’s efforts this season and was hopeful that his team would be able to put another marker down with a win on Saturday:
“These types of games are the opportunity that allows you to make even more of a statement.
“We will go into it with big confidence.
“Because of how we work and how we play, we sometimes get the best out of the opponents because they have to be at their top to beat us.
“But we go into every game expecting to win now.
“We respect every opponent we play and none more so than the leaders.
“We understand the magnitude of this game. It could really give us a push for the rest of the games.”
— TheHardTackle (@TheHardTackle) February 5, 2014
Rodgers also clarified his statement from earlier in the week that it’s ‘too early’ for his team to win the title. He admitted that Liverpool are not satisfied with their current position and a Champions League place remains a top priority this season:
“Well it’s certainly the objective. I think that the position we’ve been in for most of the season means that we’re fighting and we’re up there.
“I was asked a question yesterday in terms of the title and I gave an answer that I felt was an honest answer in terms of doesn’t stop our ambition, doesn’t mean that we’re any less ambitious.
“We want to finish as high as we possibly can, but certainly being in that top four is a key objective for us.”
Rodgers also admitted that new signings in the summer will be needed for Liverpool to mount a sustained challenge for top spot next season:
“I think we’ll need to strengthen the overall squad and looking to obviously introduce more quality, but it’s only natural.
“The players have been brilliant this season in terms of what they’ve produced, with what we have, and we just look to continue to develop the squad and I think when we do that then we can be there.”