Wednesday 25 April 2018

Rodgers backs Liverpool to deliver win over Bolton

Philippe Coutinho has agreed a new long-term contract with Liverpool. Photo: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
Philippe Coutinho has agreed a new long-term contract with Liverpool. Photo: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Jamie Holland

Brendan Rodgers insists that Liverpool's squad can cope with the demands of this challenging campaign despite the fact that by the end of this month they will already have played the same number of games as the whole of last season.

Liverpool travel to Bolton Wanderers tonight for their FA Cup fourth-round replay following the 0-0 draw at Anfield last month.

Rodgers' side did not add a single player to their squad in the January window and risk the prospect of burn-out as the unsuccessful Champions League campaign, their ongoing Europa League participation and run to the Capital One Cup semi-finals take their toll.

However, their manager is adamant that the players he bought last summer mean there was no need to top up the squad in this past month.

"I think we played 42 games last year and up to now we've played 39," Rodgers said. "The idea was to bring in a squad [in the summer] that could cope with that.

"They have been brought in because we wanted to be in competitions until late on and challenging for leagues and for that you need to have a good squad. I know the players are excited and looking forward, we want to keep that momentum going."

Rodgers believes that missing out on Wembley in the League Cup will drive his players towards FA Cup success.

Liverpool lost at Chelsea in the League Cup semi-finals but, with the Londoners and Manchester City out of the FA Cup, they have mapped out an alternative route to Wembley.

"After the Chelsea game there was a feeling 'Would it disrupt or provoke a negative reaction to our season?' If anything it's only promoted the momentum that we have," Rodgers said.

However, Rodgers was keen to play up the threat of tonight's opponents. "We are looking at the Bolton game as being a tough test. We are in two cup competitions and we want to go as far as we possibly can in them.

"That will be reflected in our teams, our drive and our desire to get through in the competition."

Steven Gerrard is expected to return tonight to make his 700th Liverpool appearance and Philippe Coutinho is also likely to figure after siging a new long-term contract.

Meanwhile, Neil Lennon is ready to unleash teenager Zach Clough on Liverpool tonight after claiming that the Bolton Wanderers youngster possesses the "street kid" qualities of a young Wayne Rooney.

Having scored in the 1-0 third-round victory against Wigan on his debut last month, the Manchester-born Clough delivered another example of his ability with both goals in the 2-2 draw against Wolves last Saturday.

After being overlooked by his previous manager Dougie Freedman, Clough has now been handed a new contract by Lennon to tie him to the club until June 2017 and the Northern Irishman insisted that the academy product was now ready for the challenge of facing Liverpool.

"Zach really stood out when we played a development game against Middlesbrough," Lennon said. "He was outstanding. From then on, we thought we would have him in and around the first team because he could do things other kids couldn't.

Sensational

"He's never really looked back, but he continues to surprise you. His performance last Saturday, considering he hadn't played since the third round of the Cup against Wigan when he had a sensational debut, was amazing.

"Zach is showing things that belie his age and he has certainly got the talent. He is one of the kids from the street. He's not a ragamuffin in that respect - he's polite and he's well mannered - but he's a hungry boy and he just loves playing his football so he's low maintenance in that respect."

Lennon revealed that Clough - born on the day that Emile Heskey made his debut for Leicester City against Queens Park Rangers in March 1995 - possessed similar personality traits to the former England forward.

However, he claimed that Clough's natural desire to play football and his upbringing in Manchester bears comparison to Rooney, who has admitted to honing his technique by playing football on the streets of Croxteth in Liverpool as a schoolboy.

"The street kids are the ones who fall over, cut their knee, wipe it off and get on with it, whereas sometimes you see stretchers coming on and physios coming on," Lennon said.

"I wouldn't say the hunger element is missing, but it's lacking in more ways than when I was growing up or when Wayne [Rooney] was growing up."

Liverpool v Bolton Wanderers, live, Setanta Ireland 7.45pm

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