Laudrup backs Reds for top four
Michael Laudrup believes Brendan Rodgers can return Liverpool to the Champions League by securing a top-four finish this season.
The Reds have made a promising start to the campaign, winning their first three games, including victory over Manchester United, and were top of the Barclays Premier League table coming into this weekend's round of fixtures.
Their next test comes at Swansea on Monday, where Rodgers will face his former employers at the Liberty Stadium.
Some were sceptical when Rodgers was appointed as Kenny Dalglish's successor in May 2012, but Laudrup believes the Northern Irishman is showing signs of restoring the Anfield club to the top four, claiming a Champions League spot for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
"It is hard to say if they will finish in the top four," said the Dane. "But they have started well, winning the first three games and beating Manchester United.
"We will still have to see how things will turn out as it is early in the season, but they are very close to Arsenal and Tottenham.
"They are definitely a better side than last year, the players that came in last year have more experience, and they have added some quality in Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, who have played a lot of games and settled in.
"They are a lot closer to Arsenal and Tottenham than they have been for a couple of years and they will be battling for the top four."
Neil Taylor is the only definite absentee as the Wales international remains on the sidelines with a thigh injury.
Deadline-day signing Alvaro Vazquez could be handed the chance to make his Swansea debut in attack, while midfielder Jonjo Shelvey has overcome the thigh problem that kept him out of England Under-21 action.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits his side will have to be vigilant after their 100 per cent start to the season.
Topping the table heading into the international break - albeit after only three matches - and beating champions Manchester United in the process will have made the Reds more of a target.
While the Anfield side were regarded - and realistically still are - as top-four contenders, their best start to a Premier League season will have made rivals sit up and take notice.
That is not a concern for Rodgers but he is keen for his side not to take their eye off the ball on the resumption of the campaign at Swansea on Monday.
"We're not worried. Our perception is what we think about ourselves," he said.
"Football is very much about opinion. All we try to do here is work well, work honestly and work hard.
"We had a difficult window when we came in (last summer) and I think that was well documented.
"From that we have really come together. We showed in January we'd done the preparation to get players in and I think our form and everything about the club since then has been on the up.
"We have shown in all three of our games at some stage the qualities we want.
"The quality of our football has been good and that commitment and desire to win games and our resilience has been there."
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge could be fit for the clash.
The 24-year-old, who despite struggling with a thigh injury scored the winner against Manchester United almost a fortnight ago, had to pull out of England's World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine because of injury.
Sturridge has been undergoing rehabilitation at the club's Melwood training ground ever since but is not scheduled to train for the first time until Saturday ahead of the match in south Wales on Monday evening.
However, Press Association Sport understands Liverpool remain optimistic about his progress and believe the forward has a good chance of facing Michael Laudrup's side.
There is slightly better news concerning Glen Johnson, who limped off with an ankle injury against United.
Despite reports he could be out for 10 to 12 weeks Liverpool did not put a timescale on his recovery but it seems the diagnosis is more positive.