Liverpool's Rodgers plays down talk of Euro bid
LIVERPOOL (AFP) –
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is refusing to contemplate the possibility of qualifying for Europe despite his team’s rise to sixth place after an impressive 3-2 win over Tottenham.
Inspired by Luis Suarez, Rodgers’ side have suddenly hit a rich vein of form and after putting 12 goals past Swansea, Zenit St Petersburg and Wigan, Liverpool fired another three as they came from behind to beat Tottenham at Anfield on Sunday.
The victory over third-placed Spurs, who had been unbeaten in 12 matches, means Rodgers’ men will go to strugglers Southampton on Saturday above of Everton on goal difference and on the heels of Arsenal, who occupy the fifth place that offers Europa League action next season.
But Rodgers, whose team are seven points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, said: “I’m not thinking of Europe. We know where we want to be, and we want to be challenging at the top end, but we’ll just keep looking at the next game.
“We are at the business end of the season, it’s the time to win games and narrow your focus on that. So we’ll focus on Saturday. We’ll keep collecting points and see where that takes us.
“We can play better than we did against Tottenham, but we showed character and resilience in beating a side from the top four. What is important is that we are growing as a group.”
Rodgers is confident that Pepe Reina will recover from a calf injury to return to the side that travels to Hampshire. The Spanish goalkeeper, whose recent form has been a key element to Liverpool’s rise up the table, failed a late fitness test and was replaced by Brad Jones against Tottenham.
He is also taking no notice of reports that Suarez will be the subject of a lucrative bid from Atletico Madrid in the close-season.
By then, the Uruguay striker might well be Footballer of the Year and the Players’ Player of the Year.
His sublime strike against Tottenham, guided past Hugo Lloris with the outside of his foot, was his 22nd Premier League goal of the campaign and 29th in all competitions.
There is a suggestion that a big bid could be on the cards, but Rodgers said: “He’s happy here, that’s the most important thing, he’s happy with his mates.
“He can create havoc whichever position you play him in, and he knows the trust that I put in him. That gives him the platform to perform.”
Meanwhile, Andre Villas-Boas will not dwell long on his team’s first defeat in 13 matches, knowing that Tottenham might well be still guarding their unbeaten run had a Gylfi Sigurdsson shot not hit the post with Liverpool scrambling to recover their composure at 2-1 behind.
Villas-Boas cannot afford to let his players drop their heads, with a Europa League second-leg trip to Inter Milan to negotiate on Thursday.
Even though Tottenham have a 3-0 lead from the first leg it is not a tie that can be taken lightly.
Villas-Boas also hopes Tottenham’s surrender at Liverpool, when the lead earned by two Jan Vertonghen goals was wiped out by mistakes from Kyle Walker and Lloris, will not affect his team’s recent swashbuckling attitude.
“We have to put that setback behind us and go forward,” he said.
“We were in control, and it was our mistakes, rather than Liverpool’s merits, that changed the game.
“Sigurdsson hitting the post was a turning point, and it was a difficult result to take.”