Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Liverpool have character to win league, says Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers has seen his Liverpool team develop a mental toughness

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists his high-flying side have the mental fortitude to stay in the title race as they do not underestimate any opponent.

While much is being made of the significance of next month's visits of Chelsea and Manchester City, their two main rivals, there are games to be won before that.

Sunderland visit tonight, followed by games against Tottenham and West Ham before the first of their two mouthwatering home clashes, when City come to Anfield on Sunday April 13.

Having twice gone behind at second-bottom Cardiff on the way to a 6-3 victory last Saturday, Liverpool's next three opponents may sense they have a chance to upset the Reds' run in, but Rodgers is confident his players are in great mental shape and have the character to withstand the pressures in the final eight games.

"Every team that comes through and wins (the title) have to be in that situation at some stage," he said.

"If you go back 10 years or so Chelsea hadn't won the league for 50 years when they eventually did win.

"People may have questioned whether they had the mental strength to win it, but when you do win it no-one then questions it.

"I only need to look at the squad and we certainly have the strength of character and we have shown that over a period of time.

"In my time here there has been various items thrown at the team.

"When I first came in we didn't score enough goals and that has now been flipped to we concede too many goals.

"'Do we have the character?' and then we go on a run and we're okay.

"'Is the squad big enough? Are they fit enough?' It continues, but we just concentrate on our work.

"We are up in that top area where we want to be, but we don't underestimate any opponent with eight games to go.

"We are just continuing with the focus on a one-game strategy as that's what keeps it simple."

Rodgers accepts his team will never be perfect, but it is the way they adapt to those imperfections and learn from their mistakes that he is more interested in.

And all the while he knows they are capable of outscoring any team in the division, which is where his planning over the last 18 months is coming to fruition.

"The objective coming in was to make us a more attacking, potent force knowing the other stuff will improve as we go along and the players have responded magnificently to the ideas we are looking to implement," said the Reds boss.

"We just work to make ourselves a more potent force. We are not perfect.

"It's not total freedom, it's very much structured in terms of how we work, but I feel people enjoy watching us."

Striker Luis Suarez, whose two strikes on Saturday equalled the club's record for Premier League goals in a season set by Robbie Fowler in 1997, has his sights set on the all-time landmark (34) shared by Andy Cole in 1993-94 and Alan Shearer in 1994-95.

However, they scored theirs in 40 and 42 games while Suarez has 28 in 25 and has just eight more games to surpass them, having missed the first five league matches through suspension.

The rate at which Suarez is scoring this season is startling as he is averaging 1.12 goals a game – far in excess of the 0.85 and 0.81 strike-rates of Cole and Shearer – and if he continues on that run he will comfortably set a new high.

"Suarez is remarkable. His hunger and desire with his other qualities make him hard to handle," admitted Rodgers.

e LIVERPOOL will play at the Aviva Stadium in May, with official confirmation of a friendly meeting with Shamrock Rovers expected within the next 48 hours,

The fixture will take place on either the Tuesday or Wednesday after the end of the Premier League campaign, on May 13 or 14.

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