Brendan Rodgers has once again played down title talks as Liverpool FC meet Manchester City on Sunday in a clash which has been defined by many as ‘season-defining’.
Both clubs are in a very strong position to win the Premier League and the winner of this match could potentially be the winner of the whole competition. Brendan Rodgers addressed questions before the match in his pre-match conference. He was quizzed on a variety of subjects- from injuries, to the title challenge to the rumor regarding him declining a move to Manchester City back in his career.
Liverpool have the advantage of the whole squad being fit, barring Jose Enrique, who has been ruled out for the season. Rodgers said:
“Everyone is fit. Dan Agger is back into the squad, only Jose Enrique is out and twenty players fit and raring to go.”
Rodgers was asked about the significance of the game and what he made of it. He also spoke highly of the City players and their manager Manuel Pellegrini:
“It’s a significant game, there’s no doubt about that. It’s two teams who have done extremely well this season in their own different ways but there’s still a lot of work to do after it.
“I said last week the finish line is still a way to go. It should be a fantastic game of football. For us our focus is on the three points because at the end of the day that’s all that comes out of the game.”
“You’ll gain confidence, you’ll gain belief but the three points is what we’re after, so there’s five games to go but even after this one there’s still 12 points to play for. We are really looking forward to it. The team is confident and it should be a fantastic game.
“It’s vitally important [to keep calm] and I think we showed that last weekend against West Ham. We knew that was going to be a tough game for us, we went 1-0 up, we had a disappointing goal that was given against us, and the second half we showed great composure and control in our game and eventually went on and won the game and had good dominance in the second half.”
“We’ve shown it in other games. There’s talk about pressure but for us its excitement, we’re really enjoying what we are, it’s not by accident, it’s over the last 20 months we’ve been building to arrive at where we have and we’re looking to try and sustain it over a longer period.
“The players have been very focused, we’re calm and training this week has been outstanding so there’s certainly no nerves. If you watch the training you’ll see the calmness, the players are happy and then we’ll narrow that focus in to Sunday and the game.
“For us it’s not about just one game, not about this season, it’s hopefully going to be over a period of years. We’re a club that’s got an identity, a football philosophy of how we want to work and that spills its way through the football club and that’s something we’re very proud of and something we will cultivate and grow over the years to come.
“We always respect the opponent. Man City have a team of wonderful players, a first class manager who has been a credit since he’s come into the country, he’s been very humble and he’s a man of great experience.”
Liverpool sit on top of the table and after making it nine wins on the run with their previous win over West Ham, are no more the outsiders for the challenge. They are now one of the title favourites. Rodgers spoke in this regard:
“I’m sleeping very well it’s what we work for as coaches and managers. I’ve been around as a coach for a long time and obviously I’ve only been in management for a short period of time but it gives me great joy coming in here every day, to work with the players.
“For us it’s about building to that next game and once we’ve cleared the hurdle of arriving in the Champions League then for sure then we can look at the other objectives.
“It’s brilliant for the supporters, I’m enjoying sensing how they’re felling at the moment and think they’re very proud of their team and they should be because they’re playing really exciting football and as the manager I’m proud to stand and watch the team play.”
The Liverpool manager also addressed questions regarding the past speculations of a Manchester City move (when he was Swansea manager) and now being the Liverpool manager. He said:
“Probably [was destined to be at Liverpool]. I certainly knew I was in a good place at Swansea and was in no rush to leave there and would only have taken something unique to have got me out of Swansea because I felt I had made a mistake earlier in my career moving to early and I certainly wasn’t going to do it again.
“There had to be a vision and a strategy in line with how I wanted to work. Obviously when I had the opportunity to maybe go to a number of clubs in my time at Swansea, I felt comfortable there but when the opportunity to come here to come to one of the great institutions of world football, it might only come once in your life time.
“What had to match was the vision of the owners and they’ve been a huge part of me coming here because their strategy and the leadership they wanted. It was my job to come in and manage and to put those processes together and I’m very humbled and privileged to be the manager of Liverpool so to arrive here it gave me great pride every single day.”
“I’m very fortunate to be at a club that supports my ideas of how we can play football and how we can develop the club as a whole and for that I’m hugely grateful.”
Liverpool’s mental strength- be it individuals or the whole club as one- has impressed everyone. Rodgers hailed Steve Peters and credited him with helping the squad and making them mentally strong:
“Steve is a wonderful member of our staff and plays a part in that but I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by an outstanding team of professional people. It’s unfair to signal out anyone.
“Ultimately I have a belief on that mental fitness of players and environments and he’s come in and done a great job in supporting us in that. But every person is important – from the people that work in the canteen to the girls on the front reception to the players, so this is very much a team effort here.”
Rodgers also spoke about the Hillsborough remembrance and said that it is something the club carried with itself everyday. He also said that the 96 who passed away in the tragedy gives the players and Rodgers motivation to do well for their families. He said:
“It gives us great commitment and motivation of course. Obviously we will get the chance to commemorate Hillsborough next week. It’s going to be a great atmosphere at the weekend and of course the significance of Hillsborough for the world is to be marked.
“For us we carry it every day of our lives here as Liverpool, as the manager, the players, the supporters. The 96, the victims of that and the families, they’re with us every day. It’s one of the huge reasons we work every day, to give them that comfort and support that their club is moving continually forward.”