Allen: I can be Zen Master
LIVERPOOL midfielder Joe Allen admits his form has dipped in recent weeks but hopes a good showing in the Europa League will spark an upturn.
The Wales international was parachuted into the side immediately after his £15million move from Swansea in August and started the Reds' first 17 Premier League matches.
But since the 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa on December 15 he has been in the first choice line-up just twice in nine games.
A similar dip in form was experienced by the likes of Jose Enrique, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing just a few months into their first season at Anfield the previous year.
Allen accepts he has not been up to the required standard but is keen to make amends as soon as possible.
"My form hasn't been great, especially compared to the start of the season, but that is more down to myself," he said ahead of tonight's Europa League last-32 first-leg tie against Zenit in St Petersburg.
"But I am looking forward to working hard and try to turn things around a little bit.
"I haven't played that much recently so any chance I get to participate then I'll be hoping to impress as much as I can and stake my claim.
"We were bitterly disappointed after Monday's defeat to West Brom, that goes without saying, but we have this tie to look forward to and refocus."
After exiting the FA Cup last month, and falling further off the pace in the Premier League with Monday's home defeat to West Brom, manager Brendan Rodgers admits the Europa League has extra significance.
But he insists it was always his intention to give it added credence once they reached the knockout rounds.
In the group stage he took several opportunities to rest the likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez but both have travelled to Russia in virtually a full-strength squad.
"It is a competition we want to do well in as it is the last cup competition we are involved in," he said.
"We have put a lot of work in during this competition in the early part of this season and I had it in my mind that when we qualified we could have a really good go at trying to win this competition."
Rodgers has expressed his concerns about the potential for racist abuse of his players in the Petrovsky Stadium but expects the referee and UEFA - and not his players - to take action if necessary.
In December a group of the Russian club's fans published a manifesto calling for sexual minorities and non-Europeans to be kept out of the St Petersburg club.
Liverpool, who have already written to Zenit and UEFA about the potential problem, have travelled with three black players - England international Glen Johnson and teenagers Andre Wisdom and Raheem Sterling - in the squad.
"I will make reference to it because we have players it maybe could affect but we are here for football," he said of his pre-match planning.
"No-one in life wants to see anyone come under any sort of scrutiny like that.
"You go into the sporting arena and hopefully everyone from football, UEFA, referees and officials will support any player it may affect.
"There is no doubt if there is anything like that which is untoward then us as a group we will do everything we can to support the player or players.
"We hope it is a game where the officials and UEFA can take care of all that."