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Saturday 23 August 2014

Rodgers: We've picked ourselves up

Published 10/05/2014 | 14:17

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Brendan Rodgers could yet see his side lift the title

Brendan Rodgers insists the spirit in the Liverpool camp has been "excellent" ahead of Sunday's clash with Newcastle, despite the hammer blow of the draw at Crystal Palace.

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Monday's contest at Selhurst Park, in which the Merseysiders were held 3-3 after leading 3-0 with a little more than 10 minutes to go, appeared the final nail in the coffin for their Barclays Premier League title challenge.

If they are to emerge from Sunday's top-flight finale as champions, they will need to beat Newcastle at home and hope West Ham win at leaders Manchester City, who are two points clear of the second-placed Reds with a vastly superior goal difference.

Rodgers' men had looked destined to claim a first league title for the club in 24 years not long ago and their devastation was clear after the final whistle on Monday.

But while he is keen for there to be lessons taken from such painful experiences, the Northern Irishman has also emphasised the importance of not dwelling on what might have been and continuing to look forward.

Asked at his pre-Newcastle press conference how the spirit had been since the Palace match, Rodgers - who is adamant he has not yet given up on the title - said: "It has been excellent.

"You could see the emotion after the game and that was pretty much the same in the dressing room afterwards.

"But we know the areas we need to improve.

"We won't dwell on it. You can't think about what might or could have happened, you can only really focus on what has happened and look forward to getting better and improving."

Liverpool have midfielder Jordan Henderson available again for Sunday's match . Henderson has missed the last three games due to suspension after being sent off in the 3-2 win over Manchester City.

The conclusion of the ban means that, other than long-term knee injury victim Jose Enrique, Rodgers has a full squad to choose from.

Alan Pardew is convinced Newcastle will face the team of the season, regardless whether the Reds lift the title or not.

He said: "They have been brilliant. They have been the team of the season, probably, regardless of whether they win it or not.

"It's a tough game for us because at home, they have been awesome.

"They have got real pace in the team and in the modern game, that kills you.

"You look at Bayern Munich - it's real pace everywhere. Real Madrid - the top teams, you have got to have that pace.

"It's something that as a manager you long for and hopefully we can improve a little bit on in our team."

Key to Liverpool's success has been their SAS strike partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.

Pardew has huge admiration for Uruguay international Suarez, who was last month named the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year.

He said: "You don't win an award like that from your fellow professionals unless you deserve it. He has been outstanding.

"He elevates Liverpool to another level, there's no doubt about that. I think Brendan would agree with that."

Newcastle will run out at Anfield at least having ended a damaging run of six successive league defeats by beating Cardiff 3-0 at St James' Park last week, although amid an atmosphere which left Pardew in little doubt as to his current standing on Tyneside.

His most vociferous critics were far from placated by a result which at least ensured the club will finish in the top half of the table, and he knows he has a major job on his hands to persuade some supporters that he remains the right man for the job.

The 52-year-old said: "We desperately want to win and in terms of the game, it's going to be a great atmosphere, for sure, because Brendan Rodgers has done an unbelievable job.

"Moving four or five positions at the top of the league is the hardest job that there is in football, and for me he has got a great chance of being Manager of the Year, and rightly so - and he could still win the title.

"That's his format. For me, it's about a performance that will make our fans at least believe that we have got some good players here still and that we just need a couple more to boost it.

"I have got to be careful what numbers I use because it always gets washed away, but we know that we need more players."

Striker Papiss Cisse is out as he faces up to four months on the sidelines after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured kneecap.

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