Brendan Rodgers insists that FA Cup win will save Liverpool's season
As Liverpool prepared for tonight's FA Cup sixth-round replay at Blackburn Rovers, Brendan Rodgers said a season without a trophy or a top-four finish would have to be counted a disappointment.
The Cup represents Liverpool's last opportunity of silverware this season, and with the final due to be played on Steven Gerrard's 35th birthday, there will be plenty of emotion driving the club forward at Ewood Park. Should they win the Cup for the first time since 2006, Rodgers would be able to claim further progress before embarking on a summer rebuild of the squad.
"The FA Cup would give us a great boost as a team with a lot of young players," said the Liverpool manager.
"That is the expectation we want - we want to be able to challenge every year. That was the key thing for me: to get the group challenging at the top end of the league every year and challenging for trophies. The FA Cup would mark a good step forward for us.
"Our objective was to win a trophy. If we didn't get into the top four and we didn't win a trophy, we would be disappointed."
While Liverpool are favourites to reach a semi-final against Aston Villa, they can hardly be over-confident tonight.
Emre Can and Martin Skrtel, two of the key defenders in their back three, are suspended, while Liverpool have not found it easy against Championship opposition this season.
Middlesbrough were only overcome in the Capital One Cup after the longest penalty shootout in English professional football, while in the FA Cup both Bolton and Blackburn held them to goalless draws at Anfield.
Liverpool won the replay at Bolton comfortably enough but Rodgers argued that if they are to do the same at Ewood Park, they would have to defend better than they did at Arsenal on Saturday.
"We didn't defend the ball well enough, we gave the ball away in poor areas for two of their four goals," he said.
"Over the last four months we have defended really well, with six clean sheets against good opponents, and we have defended very well away from home.
"However, the minute you come off it against good players you get punished and that is what has happened."
Blackburn are as unlikely to reach the Championship play-offs as Liverpool are to qualify for the Champions League. For both sides, this will be the final throw of the dice this season.
If Rudy Gestede is passed fit to play alongside Jordan Rhodes, the Blackburn manager, Gary Bowyer, will be able to pick strikers with 32 goals between them to face a Liverpool defence without two key members.
However, Josh King, whose hat-trick crushed Stoke in the fifth round, has not played because of injury since late February and is unlikely to start.
Swansea were the first Premier League club to be knocked out by Blackburn this season and there were under 6,000 fans at Ewood Park that day. Tonight, with Wembley beckoning, it is likely to be sold out.
Off the field, Liverpool have announced a 10% reduction for junior season tickets and a freeze on adult season tickets for next season after being persuaded not to raise prices by a fans group.
"Every year we give careful consideration to season ticket prices and consult with the official LFC Supporters' Committee to ensure we understand the views of our fans and the areas that are important to them," chief executive Ian Ayre told liverpoolfc.com.
"The club had planned to slightly increase season ticket prices in line with inflation but after discussing the club's wider ticketing strategy with the Supporters' Committee ticketing working group we decided to freeze prices."