Liverpool FC manager Brendan Rodgers is hoping to benefit from an extended period of rest as Liverpool will look to lay down another marker against Manchester United this Sunday.
Liverpool have been out of action for two weeks as they had no games scheduled last weekend and Rodgers allowed his players to take five days’ rest during the enforced hiatus. He will be hoping the rest comes in handy when the Reds make the short journey to Old Trafford. They will look to record a first away victory in the fixture since 2009 and in the process keep their title dreams alive.
Rodgers’ is hopeful that his side will continue their record of ending winless streaks at the homes of opposing sides, just as they have done at Tottenham Hotspur, Stoke City and Southampton already this term. Speaking at the press conference at Melwood, he said:
“It’ll be another marker for us. We’ve had a number of those statistics this year. We hadn’t won away at Tottenham for quite a while and we performed there. We hadn’t won at Southampton, which is a real tough away game, for 11 years and we won there. We’ll take the very same approach going into this game.
“We know it’s going to be a difficult game because of the level of opponent, but we’ll go in with the same aggression and confidence that we can cause problems for any opponent.
“We’ve gone into a number of games this season where the records had been that we hadn’t won there in so long, so many times or done so well.
“The performance back in 2009 [Liverpool’s last win at Old Trafford] was a terrific one, but it’s a different group of players, different mentality and different managers.
“We will go into the game with the belief we can win – and that will be no different. Nothing will move or intimate us from that. We’ll be ready for it.”
Liverpool were scheduled to take on Sunderland last Monday, but Sunderland’s involvement in the FA Cup required rearranging the fixture, and Rodgers took the opportunity to hand his charges some well-deserved recuperation time. He explained:
“It was two-fold. I gave the players five days’ rest so they could go away and refresh themselves. Because of the set-up of this league, unfortunately we don’t seem to feel the need to give the players that mental and physical recovery, which I find astonishing.
“Inadvertently, because of the [Sunderland] game being called off, we were able to do that. The players have come back really refreshed, showed a wonderful appetite throughout the week and it allows us to narrow in all the details for the game.
“Of course, we’d have liked to have played at the weekend, but because we didn’t it’s allowed us to look at our programme differently and we can get the players back for these last 10 games and really focus in on them, starting with the next game which is Manchester United.”
Despite no game for a fortnight, Liverpool remain in second place in the Barclays Premier League, seven points behind league-leaders Chelsea, albeit having played a game less than the Londoners. Rodgers reflected when asked about the Reds’ standing heading into the final straight.
“Of course it’s going to be exciting for everyone, these last 10 games. We’re there on merit. The players deserve to be where they are and their performances count for everything. The words I say don’t really matter – it’s about them and what they’re doing on the field.
“Thus far they’ve shown we’re going to be able to compete. Hopefully we can continue along that route.”
Liverpool have already visited Old Trafford this season when they suffered a 1-0 defeat in a Capital One Cup tie in September but Rodgers is confident his side will be a different proposition this time around.
“We know it’s going to be a difficult game; every game involving Liverpool and Manchester United is a tough game. We actually played very well at Old Trafford in the cup game we lost [in September]. We’re going there with a greater belief and confidence at this stage of the season. It’s set up to be a really good game.”
That Capital One Cup game back in September was Luis Suarez’s first appearance in the 2013-14season after the ten game band, and since then, the Uruguayan has fired 24 goals in the Premier League to become the division’s top scorer. Second in the top scorer chart is Daniel Sturridge on 18 strikes – and journalists put it to Rodgers whether the outcome of Sunday’s contest could come down to who fares better on the day; the SAS or United’s Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.
“I’m not too bothered, really. For me, it’s about our team. All four of those strikers have got great qualities.
“I’ve got big admiration for Wayne Rooney – he’s been a top talent since he burst onto the scene – and Van Persie probably won the league for them last year.
“But we’ve got two players in Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge that have got world-class ability and have proven this year – and before that – that they can hurt anyone.
“We’ve also got a number of other players and for us it’ll always be about the team. Those are the guys that finish off the great moves we make, but it’s about the team – not just about our two strikers.”
The clash between Liverpool and Manchester United has traditionally been billed as English football’s biggest game and the roots of the rivalry can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution, and Rodgers admits it’s always an occasion to savor.
“It’s certainly the fixture with the most tradition. This game is between two of the biggest clubs in this country and throughout Europe. It’ll be beamed all over the world, and that tells you everything about the status of both clubs.
“At the minute, we’ve got great confidence and over the course of the season – and in the time I’ve been here – the biggest thing we’ve got is belief; a belief in how we work every day and we take that out onto the field.
“Both are huge clubs and it’ll always make for a great spectacle.”