Sunday 25 February 2018

We're on track to rejoin Europe's top table – Rodgers

Jamie Holland

LIVERPOOL manager Brendan Rodgers insists his side remain on course for a return to the Champions League despite last Saturday's defeat at Arsenal, where they were second best for most of the game.

After 10 matches, the yardstick by which Rodgers said the team's top-four credentials should be judged, Liverpool have 20 points and are third on goal difference behind Chelsea.

Rodgers knows maintaining that ratio for the remainder of the season would get the Merseysiders back into the Champions League for the first time since they finished second in the 2008-09 campaign.

In the time they have been away from Europe's elite club competition, no side has required more than 73 points to finish in the top four.

"If you're averaging two points a game you would like to think you would get into the Champions League," said the Reds boss ahead of today's game against struggling Fulham at Anfield.

"We just need to keep our concentration. We've built a platform but we have to keep pushing on."

Rodgers accepts that last week's defeat to the Gunners, playing their best football for some time, showed him where his side need to improve if they are to win the big matches.

"They had better control of the game but in terms of chances we could have got something from the game. That gives us great hope. We didn't play to our maximum but we could have had something from it."

The return Philippe Coutinho, who played the second half at the Emirates after more than six weeks out following a shoulder operation, should help Liverpool to bounce back.

"Philippe adds a genuine quality to our game," said Rodgers. "He has got a high level of technical ability and a strong personality."

Full-back Glen Johnson is fully recovered after illness ruled him out of the Arsenal game, while Steven Gerrard has overcome the hip problem that restricted him against the Gunners. It seems, however, Martin Kelly has some way to go before reaching his full fitness.

Jon Flanagan – whose last start had been April 2012 – was preferred at right wing-back after Johnson's unavailability against Arsenal, with Kelly left on the bench.

The 23-year-old has featured only twice since rupturing knee ligaments in September 2012, and Rodgers said he had more work to do.

"It's just getting him fit – that's the most important element of Martin's career at the moment," he said.

Liverpool v Fulham,

Live, Setanta Sports 1, 3.0

Irish Independent

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