Reds aiming for top four, declares defiant Hodgson

LIVERPOOL manager Roy Hodgson admits a victory this afternoon may allow him to sleep easier but will not provide an instant fix to what has been a difficult start to the season.

However, he has dismissed critics who say his squad does not have enough quality to finish in the top four, insisting regaining their Champions League status remains well within their capabilities.

Sunderland visit Anfield looking to capitalise on a tough week for the Reds which last weekend saw them claw their way back from 2-0 down against Manchester United only to concede late on.

The midweek Carling Cup exit to League Two Northampton, albeit with an understrength team, has added to the despondency enveloping the club.

Liverpool are 16th in the league having only one win – against West Brom – in their opening five matches, losing twice in Manchester to City and United and drawing with Arsenal and at Birmingham.

Their next two league matches against the Black Cats and Blackpool the following weekend represent an opportunity to get things back on track – especially as they are currently only three points off fourth place.

But Hodgson knows it is what the team can do over the entire campaign which will decide whether they are successful or not.

“It will take more time than a win tomorrow,” said the Reds boss in response to suggestions the Sunderland game could turn things around completely.

“It will certainly make my life a bit happier and I shall sleep a bit better on Saturday night if we get a win – but we might not.

“Nothing I can say changes the result on Wednesday or repairs any damage done by the poor performance.

“What will change everything is a good performance on Saturday, a good (Europa League) performance in Utrecht on Thursday and a good performance against Blackpool the following Sunday.

“Maybe then there will be a totally different atmosphere and attitude.”

Hodgson believes the situation is retrievable. “You don’t get wins because you talk about them or want them – Sunderland need a win too,” he added.

“They lost in midweek with their first team at home. They don’t have many points on the board and there are a lot of teams in the Premier League that don’t.

“But I think mounting a challenge on the top four is a realistic target for us. We haven’t given ourselves the best possible start but there are still 33 matches to play and that is a lot of points to play for.

“I’ll retain that as our realistic goal.”

Hodgson argued that Wednesday’s Carling Cup defeat, as humiliating as it was against a team 17th in League Two, was clouding judgments about the forthcoming Premier League match.

He changed all 11 players in midweek and is likely to reverse that by reinstating the starting line-up which lost 3-2 at Old Trafford.

That means a return for star performers Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Joe Cole and Jose Reina.

“None of the players who are playing tomorrow (Saturday) played on Wednesday,” said the 62-year-old.

“People will be very foolish to think that because Northampton have beaten the team they beat, that the side tomorrow will be equally vulnerable.

“They shouldn’t confuse Wednesday night’s performance with the team which played against Manchester United and the team which will play Sunderland.

“Sunderland will be a new stern test and I am pretty confident the players will come and show they are very good players – that is the best way we can get into the fans’ good books.”

The Black Cats head for Anfield having failed even to score there in a decade with just two draws to show for their past seven visits.

Boss Steve Bruce has admitted his sympathy for Hodgson’s task at Anfield.

“We all know the game and Roy has been in it longer than I have. You don’t have a good start now and you are under pressure.

“We all know October is a terrible month for us managers, but given time, he will be fine, absolutely fine.

“I wish Roy all the best, but he has inherited a difficult job.”


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