Saturday 20 January 2018

Brendan Rodgers targets goal rush as Liverpool face into final frontier

'If anyone can win the league on goals scored it's us', insists boss

Steven Gerrard of Liverpool shakes hands with Manager Brendan Rodgers of Liverpool at the end of the match during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Steven Gerrard of Liverpool shakes hands with Manager Brendan Rodgers of Liverpool at the end of the match during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Ian Herbert

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers declared before the finale to the most compelling Premier League season in decades that Manchester City's season-long struggle to secure the type of five-match winning run they need to clinch the title is a source of great hope for Anfield.

City have only once strung such a sequence of wins together – in December – and have otherwise failed to win more than three successive Premier League games this season, reinforcing Rodgers belief that a win at Crystal Palace tonight can pave the way to Liverpool's first championship in 24 years.

"Manchester City need to win all their games which means they will have won five games in a row and they have only done that once this season, so it will be a wee bit new for them as well," Rodgers said. "It is certainly not over by a long way."

Neither did the Northern Irishman discount the notion of his team actually winning the league on goal difference, by overturning City's nine-goal advantage in the next six days. On this date in 1990, the year they last won the title, Liverpool won 6-1 at Coventry City.

They would need that result followed by a 7-0 win at home to Newcastle on Sunday, if City beat both Aston Villa and West Ham 1-0.

The goal difference outcome looks a tall order in the extreme, yet there would be something appropriate if a Liverpool side four goals short of becoming the first Premier League team to score 100 goals since Chelsea in 2009/10 were to win the title that way.

Liverpool last scored 100 goals in the 1895/6 season. "If there is any team that can score goals and turn it around it will be us. There is no question," Rodgers said.

"That will be our aim. I have seen it before. Chelsea beat Wigan 8-0 in the last league game of the season. I am not paying any disrespect to Newcastle at all but what we are saying is if there is a team that has shown it can score goals, it is us. We are not a 1-0 team."

In what seemed to foretell a remarkable Anfield finale six days from now, Rodgers said he would keep attacking to erase the goals differential.


"That's the nature of the league, isn't it? It's about the goals," he said. "Manchester City won it on goal difference a couple of years ago.

"When I came in here that's why I spoke about a team that could score goals because ultimately that is what it could come down to.

"We scored 71 goals in the first year I was here and now we have 96. That is what gives us the chance. We can sit and get the team to defend and not want to score, but ultimately it's the team that scores the goals that will win."

Rodgers insisted that City's win at Everton, which leaves Manuel Pellegrini knowing that home wins against Aston Villa and West Ham, sides with nothing left to play for, ought to be enough, did not change his arithmetic.

"We knew we would have to win at Crystal Palace and win against Newcastle. That won't change and that will be our focus," he said. "(City face) Aston Villa, an incredible team on the counter-attack and better away from home, and West Ham who on their day can provide a real difficult opponent."

Rodgers also pointed out the gulf in resources between his own side and Pellegrini's. "I saw the analysis Gary Neville did on us, (about) patience and the type of players and he showed Manchester City scoring late on in the game against QPR," Rodgers said.

"What he didn't mention was Vincent Kompany, one of the best centre-halves in the world, passed it in to Yaya Toure, one of the best midfielders in the world, who passed it onto Sergio Aguero, one of the best strikers in the world, who passed it onto (Mario) Balotelli, one of the best young players in the world, who gave it him back and Aguero scored.

"You have world-class players right the way through the team and we are trying to build to that here."

For Liverpool, who will have Daniel Sturridge in contention to start tonight, there has been a benefit in not being asked to go straight back into action following the defeat to Chelsea. The players had four days off last week, including "a couple of days to grieve," as Rodgers put it. But he accepted that this title opportunity had to be seized, with City, Chelsea and Manchester United all planning to strengthen for next season.

"Of course it will be more difficult next season," Rodgers reflected. "We have seen that. Look at the teams that challenged (in Europe), like Borussia Dortmund who won the league, then went into the Champions League, did okay in the league but could not get out of the group stages of the Champions League.

"Then the season they got to the Champions League final they did not do so well in the league. But I'm very optimistic and I see this as a beginning, not just a one-off. We've brought the club back into the reckoning and it's where we want to stay." (© Independent News Service)



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