Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes his players were served a dose of reality this week and he hopes they have learned they cannot afford to be the slightest bit complacent.
By Carl Markham
An unexpected 3-1 defeat by Aston Villa last weekend was the Reds’ worst display of the season and killed any momentum the team had going into the festive period.
As a result they have slipped seven points off the pace for Champions League qualification and with a packed schedule coming up Rodgers is keen for his side to swiftly address the issue.
“What has come to Liverpool is realism and where we are at and it’s been great for the mentality of the players,” he said.
“Our learning from it (the Villa defeat) was that no game is easy in this division.
“The comfort with which we were playing and the opportunities we created in the first 25 minutes would maybe have made you thought we were going to get the result — it’s very easily done.
“It is great learning that you can’t afford to (think like that), you have to keep pushing.
“We now need to make sure the performances, our focus and concentration is very high no matter who the opponent and we get what we want from the games.
“If you go into the game with any complacency or pre-conceived idea that it’s going to be a stroll then you’ll fall flat on your face.”
The visit of Fulham this evening signals a sequence of five matches in 16 days but Rodgers has warned his players they cannot afford to think they can ease up.
“It’s obviously a busy period and the players are human beings.
“The players’ focus is purely on the next game because it is irrelevant what will happen at Stoke and QPR, you have to take care of Fulham.”
Liverpool were given a festive boost yesterday with the news that England international Raheem Sterling has committed his future to Liverpool by signing a long-term deal with the club.
Sterling, still 18, has broken into the first-team picture to great effect at Anfield this season and has so far made 25 appearances.
“Hopefully I can kick on after the New Year and try to do my best for the team and the football club,” said Sterling.
Meanwhile Fulham boss Martin Jol remains confident his side can claim a positive result at Anfield despite his severely depleted midfield resources.
Steve Sidwell’s one-match ban for collecting five yellow cards, as well as Bryan Ruiz and Mahamadou Diarra still sidelined with injuries, means Fulham will be without the majority of their central midfield players.
A run of just one win in the club’s last nine league outings mean Fulham are now only five points clear of the relegation zone.
Jol remains upbeat about the league position but knows a result at Liverpool, followed by a string of players returning to the fold, would be a timely boost.
“It is about winning games so if we can pull a few games together and have a few wins we will be fine again — but we need to come up with solutions and results.
“It is a constant worry, that is why a lot of managers in the Premier League will tell you they need 40 points as soon as possible.
“I would be worried if we were in the bottom three but now my first worry is the (injured) players and getting them back.
“We have got a problem in midfield, everyone can see that. The only one who is there is Chris Baird and he is a defender, we have trained this week and tried to do a certain shape with certain players and we still have the players to do a job.”
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