'Liverpool should maintain momentum'
08 November 2013, 10:33
London - Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes that his team will be close to delivering Champions League football if they can continue their form from the opening weeks of the season.
The Anfield club, who host Fulham in the Premier League on Saturday, were beaten for the second time in the league this season when they lost 2-0 at leaders Arsenal last weekend.
But with no European football or League Cup action to contend with, they currently reside in third place with 20 points from their first 10 games of the season.
And Rodgers feels that maintaining that pace will be enough to avoid extending their exile from the Champions League into a fifth season.
Ahead of the visit of the Cottagers, Rodgers has been boosted by the availability of Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who came off the bench at the Emirates Stadium following a shoulder injury, as well as Glen Johnson, who missed that game through illness.
The four teams below them are all within a point, but Rodgers feels his side are on the right track.
"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," Rodgers said.
"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 got some players coming back now, like young Philippe Coutinho, who adds a genuine quality to our game. My history as a coach shows that I love players with personality and technique. This is a player that has got a high level of technical ability and a strong personality.
"We've built a platform this year, but we have to keep pushing and moving forward or else it counts for nothing."
As well as Coutinho and Johnson, Spanish left-back Jose Enrique may return from a knee problem, but forward Iago Aspas and defender Sebastian Coates are long-term absentees.
Fulham manager Martin Jol has faced speculation about his future in light of his side's difficult start to the season, but Rodgers feels the Dutchman has done a good job.
He added: "He's done an excellent job there. He's got great experience, been around a long time, at Tottenham, Hamburg and Ajax, and he's a top manager.
"They got to a final of a European competition a few years ago, but he will be limited in terms of the budget that he has, but he's brought in some very good players and they'll be looking to come to us and put on a strong performance away from home, which they can do."
The signs looked bleak for Jol last weekend when he found himself the target of boos after his side conceded three first-half goals against Manchester United at Craven Cottage.
However, an improved second half-display diluted the complaints and the Dutchman says that he has no cause for concern ahead of the trip to Anfield.
"I don't think you are under pressure against Liverpool or Manchester United," he said.
"You are under pressure in your home games against the teams who should lose points against us. Before (the 4-1 win at) Crystal Palace, we really felt some pressure; not because of me, but because of the result. We needed points.
"We managed to win that game and played well and then had Southampton away (a 2-0 defeat); they are playing well; Man United, now Liverpool. It is not easy."
Brede Hangeland could return for Fulham after struggling with a sciatica problem, but forward Hugo Rodallega will be out for up to six weeks with a groin injury.
Sascha Riether will also be missing after the FA imposed a retrospective three-match ban on the full-back after video evidence revealed he had stamped on United's Adnan Januzaj.
- Sapa - AFP