Liverpool V Fulham at Anfield : Match Preview
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Rodgers: Reds on course
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists his side remain on course for a return to the Champions League.
The Reds boss said last weekend's defeat at leaders Arsenal, when they were second best for most of the game, had by no means derailed their progress towards securing a top-four slot.
After 10 matches, which is the yardstick when Rodgers said a judgement could be made on the credentials of his side, they have 20 points and are third only on goal difference behind Chelsea.
Rodgers knows maintaining that ratio for the remainder of the season would get the Merseysiders back into the Champions League for the first time since they finished second in the 2008-09 campaign.
In fact, in the time they have been away from Europe's elite club competition no side has required more than 73 points (Arsenal, last season, averaging 1.9 points) to finish in the top four.
"If you look at where we're at if you're averaging two points a game you would like to think you would get into the Champions League," said the Reds boss ahead of the visit of struggling Fulham.
"Come Saturday if we can get another three points - which we'll be fighting hard for - that would take us above that.
"We're just treating every game as an important game for us in our quest this year.
"We just need to keep focusing and keep our concentration.
"We've built a platform this year but we have to keep pushing and moving forward or else it counts for nothing."
Rodgers accepts the defeat to the Gunners, currently playing their best football for some time, showed him where his side need to get better if they are to remain consistent, particularly in the big matches.
"Having analysed the game twice afterwards I thought they had better control of the game than us; that's something that is part of our identity that we're looking to improve," he added.
"But in terms of chances we could have got something from the game. That always gives us great hope.
"We didn't play to our maximum but we still could have had something from it.
"We're just looking to grow and improve our level in every aspect. That's something we'll continue to work on."
What will help Liverpool to bounce back quickly is the return of playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who played the second half at the Emirates Stadium after more than six weeks out following a shoulder operation.
Full-back Glen Johnson is fully recovered after illness ruled him out in the hours before the Arsenal game while Steven Gerrard has trained this week after a hip problem restricted him during the game.
Right-back Sascha Riether misses out for Fulham as he starts his three-match suspension after being found guilty of violent conduct by the Football Association for stamping on Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj in last weekend's 3-1 defeat.
Striker Hugo Rodellega will be out for five to six weeks with a muscle injury in his left leg and defender Matthew Briggs will be sidelined for another six weeks following his hernia operation.
Meanwhile, manager Martin Jol will wait on the fitness of central defender Brede Hangeland (sciatic nerve) and attacking midfielder Bryan Ruiz (back) before naming his final squad.
Jol believes Ruiz is strong enough to shrug off the effects of the booing he received from Fulham's home crowd last weekend when his side run out at Anfield.
Ruiz was singled out by fans who voiced their displeasure as Fulham slumped to 16th place and two points away from the relegation zone.
Jol said: "The Premier League is a tough world. If you do well the people will praise you and if you don't they will boo you. He's quite strong, he's not a pussycat. It will affect him personally but I don't think it will affect his game."
Jol knows Liverpool striker Luis Suarez well having managed him at Ajax, where he made the Uruguayan his captain.
He has tried to pass on inside knowledge to his defenders but acknowledged the talent of Suarez is difficult to shackle.
Jol said: "Suarez is one of the best in the world and he will prove that. He will score a lot of goals. He would have been top scorer last year if he had not been suspended.
"Sturridge has also had a big impact since he went to Liverpool. They are very good going forward with these top players up front.
"Maybe you could stretch your imagination a bit and say they could be title contenders. They are strong and they will be going for a top four spot this year."
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