Brendan Rodgers remains convinced Liverpool are capable of qualifying for the Champions League, as they prepare for a crucial showdown with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. Liverpool, in fifth place, go into the match six points behind their third-place opponents and five adrift of Manchester United in the final Champions League spot. Despite conceding that his team let themselves down in a defeat to United last time out, Rodgers is confident his side has what it takes to be successful on Saturday, and in their key objective this season.
“We've made it difficult for ourselves because of our last performance and result, but it's certainly achievable,” he said, according to Liverpool’s official website. “In the last eight games you get the opportunity to finish the season very well.
“Over the course of the last three months, apart from the last game, we've performed very well and we have got results. I think people might look at it as a must-win game. For me, it is a must-perform game, we want to perform well and we know that when we do that we've got every chance of winning, whether that's at home or away.”
Rodgers’ buildup to the game has been disrupted, though, by issues on and off the pitch. Having already lost captain Steven Gerrard and defender Martin Skrtel to suspensions picked up against Manchester United, there is also a doubt once more over the fitness of Daniel Sturridge. The striker missed both of England’s internationals over the past week with a hip problem, although he could make it in time for Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff. Adam Lallana, meanwhile, is expected to shake off a groin injury.
Away from the field, a major storm has been caused by Raheem Sterling deciding to give an unauthorized interview to the BBC, in which he laid bare the facts about his contract predicament and suggested that his future may lie away from Anfield. His comments only sparked further speculation that the 20-year-old starlet could even make a transfer to Arsenal.
In comparison, Arsenal’s preparations for Saturday’s matchup have been comparatively serene. Arsene Wenger’s side have won their last six matches in all competitions, and now have a degree of comfort ensconced in the top four. Indeed, Wenger declined to rule out pulling off an unexpected title triumph, although the gap to leaders Chelsea remains seven points and with Arsenal having played a game more. He insists, though, that the focus is simply on the next game, refusing to be drawn even on whether an Arsenal win on Saturday would end Liverpool’s top-four challenge.
“It’s a big game and an opportunity for us to continue our run, that’s what we want to do,” he said in his pre-match press conference. “We are on a strong run and we just want to focus on winning our games, winning the next one. Liverpool is a big opponent but we play at the Emirates and we want to do it.
“I'm not too much into mathematics now. We do that after the game. What is important is just for us to win the game and produce the performance. At the moment, I just want to make sure we have a quality performance and have a continuity of what we produced recently. After the international break it's always important that you come back and straight away you are on it.”
Arsenal have a quartet of players back in contention after long-term injury. Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Debuchy and Abou Diaby all appeared for an Arsenal XI in midweek, although it remains to be seen how many will feature in the squad on Saturday. Daniel Welbeck’s place is also in doubt as he recovers from a knee injury picked up on England duty.
Kickoff time: 7:45 a.m. ET
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra