independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Rodgers: This is our field

Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool side have won nine of their last 10 league games at home

Brendan Rodgers believes Liverpool's excellent home form is down to their desire to "own the pitch".

The Reds' position in the Champions League qualifying spots is largely down to their record at Anfield, where they have dropped just five points from 13 games.

Liverpool have won nine of their last 10 home games in the Barclays Premier League, and will look to carry on that record when Rodgers' old club Swansea visit on Sunday.

He said: "It's something we've been building towards.

"We've started well in a lot of the games, and you align that with the support we've got, which is remarkable, and that's really helped us with this home form.

"If you're going to be successful, that's going to be vital. We're looking to create that not just for now but for the future as well.

"We just need to go into games with the same approach, that same commitment and energy, and obviously we've got undoubted quality.

"We go into every game, obviously in particular our home games, looking to own the pitch. It's our home ground, our changing rooms, our field, our supporters, so we have to play like we own it.

"That's always been the mantra here. We back ourselves now and we expect to win. It's dealing with that pressure which has really helped.

"We've got good organisation, everyone knows their function in the team, and everyone's working tirelessly in order to achieve the results. You do that consistently; day in, day out and week in, week out, and you build that momentum."

Qualifying for the Champions League is now Liverpool's only priority after last weekend's FA Cup fifth-round defeat by Arsenal.

The Reds felt hard done by after being denied a second penalty for what appeared a clear foul on Luis Suarez.

Rodgers hopes the single-minded focus will help Liverpool's cause, even if he wishes that were not the case.

He said: "Last week we were disappointed to go out of the cup. You could see the players' reactions after the game because we wanted to do well in it and our performance level was very good.

"Unfortunately we lost the game and now we really focus in on the only competition that is left. The objective is the same, to really do the very best we can in every game.

"Ideally we'd have more games and be in other competitions but it gives us the chance to ensure players' fitness levels are correct.

"We can taper the week in terms of focusing on one game. When you're in the cup competitions sometimes they can give you that extra prop to move forward in your league campaign as well but we're very determined."

Glen Johnson returns to the Liverpool squad. The right-back has been out for more than a month with ankle and groin problems, while fellow defender Mamadou Sakho could return next week from a hamstring injury.

Swansea manager Garry Monk is hoping "football fitness" will help him get the best out of his players as they bid to avoid relegation.

The Premier League is proving deceptive at present because although the Swans may appear to be riding high in 12th place, just four points separate Monk's side from the bottom three.

Nights like Thursday, when they held Italian giants Napoli to a goalless draw in the first leg of their last-32 Europa League tie, will live long in the memory of many Swansea fans.

But it will count for nothing if Monk is unable to keep his team in the top flight, especially after being entrusted with the reins following the sacking of Michael Laudrup earlier this month.

There have been some suggestions Laudrup's training methods lacked intensity, and although Monk did not highlight that directly, he has admitted to stepping on the gas with his players.

"I know the levels they can get to in terms of what I call football fitness," said Monk.

"There is being able to run all day, which is your endurance, but to be able to keep the ball like we do, make movements, press, get back and retrieve you have to be football fit.

"That's down to your training, and they've only trained like that for 13 days or whatever, but that is the level they have already got to.

"If you can have a longer period with them, and you get that football fitness into them, they can only go one way. Long-term, you can see the benefits coming already.

"We've just stripped it back to some intensity, sharpness, quickness, some guidance in what they are doing, the details we give them about us and the opposition.

"It is about giving them as much as possible, so they are prepared."

Having learned from a number of managers during his playing career, including Rodgers, Monk is hoping his ways will sink in with his players.

"The best managers I've had are on you as early as possible, trying to make you set the standards," said Monk.

"Then in the end you don't hear much from them because you are doing it yourself and the whole group is doing it.

"It's when the whole group buys into it that you get the best out of them."

Monk has no new injury worries going into the game following the match with Napoli, with striker Michu his only doubt as he draws closer to a return after ankle surgery.

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