Judge us later in the season, says optimistic Rodgers

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes the time to judge his side will not come until the last two months of the season.

After more lows than highs in the first five months of his reign the Reds’ chances of having a successful season have all-but been written off.

Inconsistency has dogged them throughout, highlighted perfectly by their last four matches which saw them lose at home to Aston Villa – who have since gone into freefall – thrash Fulham, lose woefully at Stoke and cruise to victory at bottom club QPR.

However Rodgers is confident there is time yet to improve things.

“This is a period of time where you have to keep your head down and work hard and give the players every chance to perform,” he said.

“The second half of the season, and in particular the last 10 games, I believe you are working to because that is the business end when things are decided.

“When you arrive at that period you want to get yourself in a good position to challenge, whether that is in the league or cup competitions. We can still achieve our objectives this season so when you can do that going into the second part of the season it gives you real hope.”

Rodgers will return to the dugout tonight having missed Sunday’s win at Loftus Road with illness which also affected head of performance Glen Driscoll and back-up goalkeeper Brad Jones.

There has been a slight element of quarantine at the club’s Melwood training ground to prevent the infection spreading to other members of the squad but the club are confident they have been successful in limiting any potential spread.

Rodgers can ill-afford to lose any of his playing staff, which he hopes to be able to add to in the coming days now the transfer window is open.

Liverpool have been waiting to finalise a deal for Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge which will not officially be completed before the visit of Sunderland.

Blackpool winger Tom Ince has also been linked with a return to the club he left in the summer of 2011 but those negotiations are proving more difficult.

Aside from that Rodgers is not planning a huge amount of business as he knows there is not a lot of money to go around. The real war chest is likely to be released in the summer, when all Premier League clubs will benefit from a huge increase in revenue from the new television deal.

Meanwhile, Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill arrives in Anfield tonight determined to extend an impressive record. Anfield has proved a remarkably happy hunting ground for O’Neill over the years, with former clubs Leicester and Aston Villa having both won there.

Asked about his record at one of English football’s most atmospheric venues, he said: “I’ve won almost every time.

“The last time we visited there, we won. It’s a great ground, it’s very atmospheric. ”

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