Belfast Telegraph

Brendan Rodgers needs some Cup glory and Raheem Sterling deal for Liverpool

Liverpool boss hits out over Liverpool unrest rumours

By Steven Beacom

Brendan Rodgers has hit back at suggestions that there are splits in the Liverpool camp ahead of tonight's crucial Capital One Cup quarter-final at Bournemouth.

With Liverpool having won just twice in their last 10 games, exiting the Champions League and coming off the back of a 3-0 defeat to fierce rivals Manchester United, the under pressure Ulsterman is in desperate need of a victory versus the Championship leaders.

To achieve it, against a side who have not been beaten since September, the Liverpool boss will need everyone pulling together, which some feel has not been the case at Anfield lately. Rodgers (right), though, is adamant there is NO disharmony in the dressing room.

"I hear one or two bits and pieces about unrest and it is totally untrue," said Rodgers. "These are competitive players who nearly won the league last year, so they won't be happy with losing, but the actual spirit in the group is very strong.

"That is one of the reasons why, when we get that confidence back, we will go into the second half of the season and be much better."

Many Liverpool fans don't want to wait that long, demanding improvements now, starting at Bournemouth.

Kopites, as frustrated as the club's owners at the failure of any of the summer signings to shine so far, will want to see a positive result tonight followed up by another one at home to Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday.

With Chelsea and Manchester City set to occupy the top two places this season and Manchester United stringing wins together without playing that well, Liverpool's only hope of a top four place in the league may be to finish ahead of the Gunners, who are five points ahead of the Merseysiders approaching the busy festive period.

What happens against Bournemouth this evening will have a big bearing on Liverpool's confidence when taking on Arsene Wenger's men.

After dropping Simon Mignolet for the trip to Old Trafford, it would be a surprise if Rodgers didn't stick with Brad Jones in goal though whether the Carnlough man continues with a three-man defence is open to debate. Glen Johnson is out until the New Year with a hamstring problem picked up in the defeat to United.

With a League Cup semi-final spot on the line and a need to return to winning ways, Rodgers is expected to play Raheem Sterling, who with better finishing could have scored a hat-trick at the weekend.

Speculation about the 20-year-old England winger's future continues with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid keeping an eye on his contract situation.

Sterling, who signed his existing five-year deal at the club in December 2012, has turned down Liverpool's latest £70,000-a-week offer and is keeping his options open.

Asked whether there could be implications for Sterling's future if Liverpool did not strengthen their squad in the summer, Rodgers said that he hoped that would not be the case.

"We're a club that is trying to build something here. We were on a path for a couple of years and unfortunately we've had to come off that path since the summer. We lost some players and we're having to regroup again.

"He (Raheem) is a real catalyst and a talisman for this team. I think he's been a great example of the progress that a lot of the players have made here, going from an 18-year-old player to being one of the top young players in English football. The club, I'm sure, will work very hard (to keep Sterling).

"Raheem is happy here and he loves being a Liverpool player. So I'm sure that between them and his representatives we can get a deal done which will see him continue to develop what is an exciting career.

"He's the type of boy who leaves his representatives to work with the club in order to hopefully organise the deal for him. He has no real influence in that. All I ask him to do is concentrate on football and getting himself ready for training and performances will come.

"He's shown that consistently over this last period that he's been a real, real threat. I'll never be surprised that teams are linked with Raheem. He's such a big talent. I'm quite relaxed about it."

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