ESPN FC: Tottenham vs Liverpool preview
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has called on his players to prove they can stay in the Premier League title race without the injured Steven Gerrard.
Gerrard, 33, will be out for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury he picked up during last Saturday’s 4-1 win over West Ham.
It means the England international will miss Sunday’s trip to Tottenham, as well as tricky away fixtures at Manchester City and Chelsea over Christmas.
With 11-goal striker Daniel Sturridge also out until January with an ankle injury, Rodgers must go into a demanding festive programme without two of his most influential players.
But the Reds boss still has the threat of 15-goal top scorer Luis Suarez to call on, and he wants the rest of his squad to show that they can maintain the form that has taken them to second place in the Premier League, five points behind leaders Arsenal.
Rodgers said: “We have enough talent in the squad which means we can restructure the team a little bit, but we have enough quality.”
The manager pointed to the fact that he has been without a number of key players because of injury or suspension at various stages of the season, including Suarez, left-back Jose Enrique, vice-captain Daniel Agger and playmaker Philippe Coutinho.
Although Agger and Coutinho are back in action, Enrique will be out until February as he recovers from knee surgery.
Rodgers said: “We’ve lost important players for a period of time already this season. Jose Enrique is a player now who has been out for a while, but young Jon Flanagan has come in and been excellent. So with Daniel out, and Steven out, that means the onus is on one or two others in the team.
“Luis and Daniel have featured highly in the goals that we have scored this season -- and, as I've always said, that's their job to score goals and create. But of course, you want other players to step up. We’ve had it here before. Whenever Daniel Sturridge wasn’t playing we won games, whenever Luis Suarez wasn’t playing we won games.
“It is an opportunity for others to step up to the plate. The focus is on the overall squad -- and over the next three weeks or so, that won’t be called into question.”
Liverpool finished seventh in the Premier League last season, and have not managed to secure a top-four spot -- and a place in the Champions League -- since they were runners-up to Manchester United under Rafa Benitez in 2009.
Rodgers is looking for his side to stay at the top end of the table, but acknowledges they must improve their away form. Liverpool have won seven out of eight league games at Anfield this season, but only two from seven on their travels.
And he also wants his players to cut out the defensive errors that have seen his side keep only one clean sheet in their last 12 league matches.
Rodgers said: “We go into every game to play well, to work the ball and work hard when we don’t have it.
“You are asked different questions away from home and we just need to cut out the mistakes we make because it hasn’t been a case of teams opening us up -- we have conceded disappointing goals or own goals. If we can cut that out, we know we have enough ammunition to get goals.
“We have made mistakes defensively. We own up to that. That has cost us goals, some of them cheap goals. It is swings and roundabouts because we won the first three games of this season 1-0 and people talked about our lack of goals -- which I don’t think is something you can level at this team.
“Now we are scoring, it is about the clean sheets. In these types of games where it is tight, you have to make sure you don’t make mistakes. It was something last year that cost us in these big games where we were in front and made mistakes.”