Liverpool V Sunderland at Anfield : Match Preview

25 March 2014 05:01
Liverpool V Sunderland - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Rodgers determined to keep focus

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 on Wednesday, followed by games against Tottenham and West Ham before the first of their two mouthwatering home clashes, when City come to Anfield.

Having twice gone behind at second-bottom Cardiff on the way to their 6-3 victory at the weekend, 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," Rodgers, who is expected to stick with the same squad that won in Wales at the weekend, 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 meticulous 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," added the Reds boss.

"We just work to make ourselves a more potent force. We are not perfect. We have the capacity to keep clean sheets but it has got to be consistent.

"What we have been able to work on is no matter what mistakes we make in the game we still have a positive attitude towards winning it.

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

Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet has a fresh selection headache ahead of the trip.

On-loan striker Fabio Borini is ineligible to play against his parent club and Connor Wickham has been recalled from Leeds as a result, while full-back Marcos Alonso is suspended following his red card in Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Norwich.

Frontman Steven Fletcher is still waiting to discover the full extent of the ankle injury he suffered against Crystal Palace on March 15, but he will not be involved at Anfield and joins long-term absentee Keiren Westwood (shoulder) on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Poyet is hoping Liverpool forward 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.

Poyet said: "I saw him once in a summer friendly game. He was just starting, I think he was 17 or 18. He was a powerful striker playing on his own, but of course, not the player we are seeing today.

"To be honest, I wasn't even thinking he would be so good. He played a decent game, but now he is on another level.

"Now you can compare him with the top players in the world because he makes the difference somehow."

Poyet added with a smile: "It's going to be tough. I hope he gets ill tonight."

Source: PA