Rafael Benitez admits the fitness of key men Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres is having to be carefully managed as Liverpool desperately seek an improvement in their form.
The Merseysiders have won just four of their last 17 games, and have fallen so far that Birmingham are ahead of them as the halfway point of the Barclays Premier League season looms.
Both Torres and Gerrard have had groin injuries which have restricted their involvement this season, and although they are presently available to boss Benitez, the Liverpool staff are closely monitoring their fitness.
Benitez said: “They still have some problems, so we must manage them carefully over a period of so many games in such a short space of time. We virtually have to decide on them before every game.
“And after each game we have to check them, to see how they are coping with their recoveries from injury.”
Benitez has held talks with several players – Torres and Gerrard included – to try to prompt an upturn in form ahead of the Boxing Day clash against Wolves and the trip to Aston Villa on Monday.
He said: “I have spoken to several players, not just Gerrard and Torres. They are all determined to do well, but when we concede a goal now we lose any confidence that we have acquired.
“That is my responsibility, to improve confidence. To do that I have to be positive, it is the only way. The message is very clear, we have quality in our squad and we must show that.
“We can win a run of games in a row, we have done that with these same players. That is the positive thought we must retain.
“We have talked about just why we are in this position. There were many ideas, but the main one was that Torres and Gerrard were not fit.
“They have been included in FIFA’s world team this week, that shows how good they are and what they can produce. But when they are not fully fit, they cannot perform to those standards.”
Liverpool will be without suspended midfielder Javier Mascherano against Wolves, however Benitez is hoping the hard work carried out on the training ground will reap reward against Mick McCarthy’s men.
“We do not need to talk too much about the problems we have, we have to work hard and find solutions. The only way to change things is hard work,” Benitez said.
“I have been a manager for 23 years, and I know you have good and bad moments. The only way to change things is to keep working.
“We have tried to relax the lads. On Tuesday we had a Christmas meal for all the staff and players, that was a very positive occasion.
“We have a good team spirit, the players know we must improve and they know the only way is to stick together.
“We must show this unity on the pitch, and the players are concerned, they are talking about what is going wrong.
“I must manage and control the anxiety of the players, and the anxiety of the fans. We know we have to change the situation, sooner rather than later. That is clear.
“If we talk too much about having to win a title, or win a cup, it just makes things worse. We must help our players by making them concentrate on the next match and winning it.”