Europe not everything, says Reds boss Rodgers

13 April 2013 04:16

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says Liverpool would be in a stronger position to challenge the Premier League's top four next season if they fail to qualify for Europe this term.

The Reds are seven points behind Arsenal, who currently occupy a Europa League place in fifth position, ahead of this weekend's trip to Reading, who sit at the foot of the table and face a desperate struggle to avoid relegation.

Defeat at the Madejski Stadium would be a serious blow to Liverpool's European aspirations with only six matches of their season remaining.

And while Rodgers would prefer to be in Europe next season, he admits there would be benefits to avoiding a return of European football to Anfield in the 2013-14 campaign.

"As a club, we want to be in there. We really enjoyed the European football this season (in the Europa League) after it had been missing for a year and I know the supporters love the travel," Rodgers said.

"But you could argue that a season free of European football would give us a greater chance of finishing in a much higher position in the league.

"It would help us compete for the top four, which is a really difficult task with the teams up there and the finances involved.

"Our squad from the beginning of this season was small and we are gradually building that up.

"We would love to be in there and we want to finish as high as we possibly can, but it won't be the end of the world if we don't qualify for Europe.

"If it doesn't happen then, it could end up being a blessing for us. It could allow us to have a real strong run at the league next year and that can then really springboard us for the years going forward.

"But ultimately we want a squad strong enough to be able to cope with European football as well as the domestic league and cups."

Stewart Downing will be fit for the game against Reading after being forced off against West Ham United with a stomach complaint, but fellow winger Raheem Sterling remains out with a thigh injury.

The Liverpool manager also revealed his intention to undertake the majority of the club's transfer business swiftly during the off-season.

Rodgers has identified a new centre-back as a major priority, with veteran Jamie Carragher having announced he will retire from playing at the end of this campaign.

"I think it's very important to get players in as quick as we possibly can," Rodgers said.

"I think we will be in a much stronger place because we have much of the structure of the team already done so it's about sprinkling more quality into it and a bit more depth, and I'm confident we can do that."

Reading's plight is desperate but, with six games remaining, manager Nigel Adkins insists his side can still pull off a surprise escape.

"We are where we are in the league, let's not hide away from that," he said. "We face an uphill task, but all we can do is focus on one game at a time.

"The momentum has gone against us with the run of results we've had recently, so we need to see if we can establish some momentum.

"Last season this club showed in the Championship that if you get the right momentum you can go the other way as well."

Reading midfielder Hope Akpan could return after an ankle problem, but Jimmy Kebe will again miss out because of a groin injury.

Source: AFP