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Wednesday 26 October 2016

Brendan Rodgers: Play-off game with Swansea bigger than any FA Cup final

Carl Markham

Published 18/04/2015 | 15:21

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers knows his reign will be judged on trophies but even if he reached the FA Cup final he claims it will not be the biggest game of his career.

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The Reds face Aston Villa at Wembley on Sunday looking to reach their first final since 2012, when they won the League Cup but lost the FA Cup to Chelsea.

However, Rodgers insists he has already managed in the biggest game of his career so anything else will not faze him.

"Swansea's play-off final was the biggest game for me and always will be so it is not about pipping it - it would be exactly the same if we were to get to a Champions League final," said Rodgers of his success with the south Wales club in 2011.

"I'd only been a manager a short time and I will always say it was my biggest game because it is a life-changing game.

"There are more prestigious games in football in terms of trophies but the play-off final, in terms of career and life and where it projects you to, is a big game.

"That game will always be the biggest game in my career but this game will be something different.

"We want to send the supporters home happy after arriving in another final.

Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers

"To win a trophy here with Liverpool is something very important.

"No matter what era you are in you will always be judged on trophies.

"We have made steps and we want to continue that by winning trophies.

"Hopefully, I'll be judged on my time here - however long that is - on that we've worked well and a part of that will be having won trophies."

Liverpool narrowly missed out on another League Cup final after losing to eventual winners Chelsea in a two-legged semi-final in January.

Rodgers hopes that experience will have helped his players as they look to book their return to Wembley on what will be captain Steven Gerrard's birthday and what would be his final appearance for the club before he leaves for the Los Angeles Galaxy in the summer.

"The players performed very well under pressure over the two games, and I think we were very unfortunate not to make the final," he added.

"What we have learned is that we want to play well and win. We have been fairly good at that but it will be about getting through. We want to concentrate on performance.

"But the learning taken from those two games is that we want to get through so even if we don't play as well and get through, that's what's important in cup competitions.

"You have to seize the moment. It's not a final, but it's a semi-final with an opportunity to come back.

"It is games like that where you write your name in the stars as a player, the big games.

"You want to make the big contribution and the big goals. If you want to be renowned as a top player, then you produce in the big games and that's what the good players will do.

"You can't take it for granted. You just never know in your life, and professional sport, when the opportunities arise again.

"So when it comes you have got to be ready to take it and that's something that I know the players are waiting and ready for."

Rodgers will welcome back centre-back Martin Skrtel from a three-match suspension and the Slovakia international will slot straight back into defence, either as a restored three-man back line or the flat four he has employed in the last two games.

"He's been outstanding this season," Rodgers said of Skrtel, easily his most consistent defender over the last 18 months.

"Whether we've played in a back-four or a back-three. In the last couple of years he's really come to the fore in terms of the team. It's great to have him back.

"The first six months when I came in here were difficult for him. He was having to adapt to a new way of working and playing. He didn't moan, he didn't complain.

"He sat in the office and looked through his strengths and the areas that he needed to improve on and he took that onto the training field and worked his way back in (the team).

"Since that moment, he's stayed in the team and been outstanding so he's a real strong character.

"He's a great player to have in your dressing room. His performance level this year has been outstanding."

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