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Liverpool look to maintain Champions League charge

03 March 2015, 08:20

Liverpool - Brendan Rodgers says Liverpool's return to form in the league has coincided with Philippe Coutinho's progression as a key player at Anfield.

Liverpool are unbeaten in their last eight domestic matches and have put themselves back in the hunt for a Champions League spot as they prepare to face Burnley on Wednesday.

Brazilian Coutinho has played a prominent role as the Reds have improved and has scored twice in his last two appearances - victories over top-four rivals Southampton and Manchester City.

Rodgers believes the 22-year-old will be a contender for player of the season.

"He's certainly going to be up there, there's no doubt about that," Rodgers said. "He's played very well.

"That period of the season where the team suffered at the beginning of the season, it was our lack of penetration at the top of the field.

"He's the player that thrives on that - he's normally the player that makes the last pass to those guys running in to score the goals.

"We didn't quite have that in the opening months, and obviously he suffered because he had to stay longer on the ball and wasn't as effective.

"Now, the dynamics in the team are very good - the pressing and movement off the ball - and that allows him and his technical quality to really shine. He's started to add goals to his game and has scored some fantastic goals.

"Very importantly, he is contributing to the team and for him there are still improvements to make with him being so young."

Liverpool will again be without Jordan Ibe and Steven Gerrard. Ibe has been ruled out for several weeks with a knee injury, while Gerrard has been out since February 10 with a hamstring strain.

Burnley are without a win in their last seven matches but Rodgers says Liverpool will not underestimate their opponents.

"Sean (Burnley manager Dyche) has got them very well organised, they have great motivation when they play, great commitment to try and stay in the league and they're fighting. They're a team we're wary of.

"They've given absolutely everything and I'm sure Sean will be up there as one of the candidates for manager of the year, irrespective of what happens."

Burnley will look to striker Danny Ings to provide their main attacking threat.

The England Under-21 international has been strongly linked with a move to Liverpool at the end of the season when his contract at Burnley expires.

Sean Dyche, Burnley's manager, expects the 22-year-old to play his normal game.

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"His determination has been there for all to see," Dyche said.

"I think he has been delivering good performances no matter what. He had the one quiet one, and other than that, he has been very good in his performance level, very good around the group and wants to do well for this football club. The rest will take care of itself.

Burnley took points from trips to Manchester City and Chelsea and Dyche reckons that mentality gives them hope ahead of facing Liverpool.

"The weight of expectation is on who we're playing against because it's Liverpool," Dyche said.

"All the world is thinking they'll win but it's not that easy.

"We know what a good side they are.

"They've spent a lot of money on players and it's taken a while to come together but since Christmas, you can see that's started to happen."



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