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Rodgers excited about second half as Reds aims to finish season with a flourish


Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers


Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers

The cliche suggests a Premier League season is a marathon, but for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers it has been more like an obstacle course.

From the pre-season loss of Luis Suarez, the absence through injury of Daniel Sturridge and the teething troubles of eight new signings, there has been little momentum.

There is a cautious feeling that is changing at Anfield heading into the second half of the season. Rodgers' side have lost just one of their past 13 games, have a League Cup semi-final on the immediate horizon, and the Northern Irishman has been swift to point out how his club's performances tend to significantly improve as the campaign progresses.

It is no idle boast. Since Rodgers' appointment, no club have accumulated more points than Liverpool in the second half of a season. In his first two years, his side have collected 84 points post-January, five more than Chelsea and the same number as Manchester City.

Should Liverpool maintain that average of 42 points from the last 19 games, it will give those occupying the third and fourth Champions League positions plenty to ponder.

Several factors may explain the anomaly between Liverpool's form at the start and end of their campaigns, from the addition of key January signings in Rodgers' first season, to the impetus of last year's title bid and the general adjustments to his shifts in team shape and style which tend to be fixed by this stage of the year.

"It's just a development process," says Rodgers. "We improve with coaching, working, confidence in the way of working and it will be the same this year. We will get better, improve and will fight until the last game of the season.

"We want to win and if you're going to be winning over a period of time then the second part of the season is where you have to enjoy your football. As a manager I always enjoy coming into this period as there is always trophies or positions up for grabs and it is dealing with that pressure and how the team is set up to play to cope with that pressure."

Liverpool won 36 points in the second half of the campaign in Rodgers' first season, which could be attributed to the January arrival of Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, but was also a natural consequence of players adapting to his style.

Last year Liverpool accumulated 48 points in the second half of the campaign, when Steven Gerrard settled into the playmaker's role, Raheem Sterling returned to first-team duties and Suarez and Sturridge wreaked havoc.

The expectation from Rodgers is a similar upturn between now and May has already begun.

"We saw it in last year's run, everyone was talking about the pressure, will we have the power, will we have this or that, but we embraced it and we loved it and it is something that I'd like to think any team of mine would do," says Rodgers.

They remain eighth in the table, but the gap to fourth has been cut to just five points, while the seven-point deficit to third-placed Southampton is hardly insurmountable.

Emre Can and Lazar Markovic have settled into the side to the extent they are now expected to start at Villa Park today, while, prior to his recent injury, Adam Lallana was showing signs of adjusting to life at Anfield.

The contrast between Liverpool's position now and 12 months ago remains striking, but Rodgers believes the testing readjustment period might be over.

"I hope so," he said. "Of course it was a difficult period because of the games and the nature of everyone settling in. It's not a traditional system we're playing now, but I think you can see the confidence in the team, how they are passing the ball and, importantly for me, how we're locking into the game defensively. I hope that continues." (© Daily Telegraph, London)