Brendan Rodgers declared that all of the pressure was on Manchester City, rather than his “fearless” Liverpool team, ahead of Sunday’s potential Premier League title decider at Anfield.
Liverpool moved back to the top of the table last night with a 2-1 win at West Ham United. If they beat City on Sunday, they will be just four victories away from winning their first title since 1990.
Although City have more experience, and won the league in 2012, Rodgers predicted that his young side would not be cowed and would play their natural game. “The team we have put together, the mentality is to be fearless,” Rodgers said.
“It doesn’t matter who we play. We have to respect [City] as they have world-class players but it’s about ourselves and the confidence we have to play and for the youngsters to enjoy it. There is no pressure on them.
“Just go on and play. The most important thing is to focus on the ball and team and not yourselves and when you do that it will take you a long way.”
Rodgers believes that Liverpool have the edge on City after their recent displays against them, and thinks that all the pressure is on Manuel Pellegrini’s side. “I thought it was interesting to hear Vincent Kompany say that we are the best team they have played,” he said. “We should have won at the Etihad this season. We should have won there last season as well but drew 2-2. We should have beaten them at home [last season], we were 2-1 up then made a mistake and it was 2-2.”
Given the investment at City over the past six years, Rodgers believes more is expected of them in the title race. “The pressure is on them because they’ve spent money, and what they’ve done in the last couple of years has been fantastic. They’re a fantastic football club and they’ve invested to win the league and the Champions League. They’ll be looking to come to Anfield and get a result, but we’re just going to enjoy it.”
Rodgers was very happy with a Liverpool performance that had less thrilling attacking football than usual, but showed a resistance to West Ham’s physical approach. “We had to control the physical battle and then dominate the ball. We’re developing very well.”
Rodgers’ opposite number, Sam Allardyce, bemoaned the performance of the match officials, specifically for Liverpool’s second penalty, awarded for an apparent foul by Adrian on John Flanagan. “Unfortunately we are talking about the officials and not the game,” Allardyce said. “[Anthony Taylor] made big mistakes in the game. He thinks Adrian hasn’t played the ball and he has. He has to be 100 per cent certain. He was in a bad position but gave it.”
Allardyce wants a change in the way that referees are recruited. “We don’t have enough quality referees,” he said. “They try their best but something has to be done about it. I’m talking about recruitment of referees and development of referees. Get them off the parks, and into academies, and young referees who have played the game and been released by clubs, as well as young referees who fancy a career at a professional level. And our next level should be professional assistants.”
Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre told BBC radio yesterday Liverpool had no intention of selling Luis Suarez. “We love having him as part of the club and I know he loves being here so we would expect that to carry on,” he said. “We don’t want to sell [him].”