Monday 22 January 2018

Kop urged to 'unleash power'

Rodgers issues rallying cry for Reds' crunch clash with City

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers

Chris Bascombe

ON a hugely emotional weekend for all of Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers has called on the Kop to "unleash" its power for the visit of title rivals Manchester City tomorrow.

Rodgers is well versed in the importance of Liverpool's '12th man' – especially with the Anfield faithful dreaming of the club's first league title since 1990 and the game being the start of a week of remembrance for the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 fans died.

The manager's appeal couldn't have been more evocative in summing up the sense of destiny, history, and emotion at Anfield ahead of his club's most significant league game in 24 years.

Rodgers did not sound like a Premier League manager issuing a rally cry, but had more in common with a commander-in-chief addressing his battalions ahead of the conclusive battle. An appeal to the Kop to "unleash" its power against title rivals Manchester City prompted reference to a passage from the movie 'Gladiator'.

The walls in Liverpool's training complex at Melwood are decorated with numerous soundbites from footballing legends, from Diego Maradona to Johan Cruyff and Fabio Capello. If his ability to capture the mood is matched with trophies during his Anfield career, Rodgers will require several walls of his own.

"We've an army of supporters behind us who are incredible; we've got a team high in confidence and belief, knowing we can beat anyone; we have no fear," Rodgers said. "If you become fearful of it, that's the first-class ticket to fail. The roar is different here at the moment. I have sensed it.

Anfield is a different place to drive up to now. Growing up, watching on the TV and seeing it from the outside and hearing it and seeing the bloom of Anfield inside, there's a touch of that again.

"We will unleash the supporters yet again on our opponents. Anfield is a very, very difficult place for people to come and play now. I have felt the power of the support here," Rodgers said.

"I remember the game against Chelsea (in the Champions League in 2005). I was a youth coach at Chelsea at the time, but I went to the game and the players and the manager himself said that the supporters won the game.

"The support is so tight to the action, they really will the team on. It's an iconic ground and for us it's so important in our destiny in the next five games.

"I sense a real nostalgia about the place. It will help drive us forward, not hold us back. It has been a long time since the league title was on Merseyside."

This alignment of past and present has been a theme of Rodgers' reign.

TRAUMATIC

He has studied and embraced every detail of the most celebrated and traumatic moments in the club's history.

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini will lead his side into an arena in a state of near hysteria as it considers the title possibilities, but also spurred by the poignant timing of such a consequential game.

For this fixture in particular to take place on this weekend – marking the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster – is too persuasive for those who believe in fate to ignore. Rodgers says the remembrance will stir his players.

"I think they'll feed off it," he said. "For us, our job is to provide a lift to the supporters, families and victims in terms of our performance."

City head to Anfield knowing a draw would shift the balance back their way.

It is a meeting of the multi-millionaires against the mega-billionaires rather than serfs versus Sheikhs as some would have it, but if there was any pointed remark from Rodgers, it was his reference to the different 'models'.

"I won't disrespect what (City) have done because they had a lot of new money come into the club in order to gain success.

"They have invested that money wisely in a lot of top players and that has won them the league, the FA Cup and the League Cup." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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