Brendan Rodgers has insisted that Liverpool can still make this season a successful one, if they can get past Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday night and go onto lift the FA Cup at Wembley.
Liverpool lost for the second successive Premier League match with a chastening 4-1 reversal at Arsenal on Saturday to leave a seven point deficit to the final Champions League place with just seven matches remaining. There is little time to overcome that disappointment, with Liverpool heading to Ewood Park to take on Blackburn in an FA Cup quarterfinal replay for the right to take on Aston Villa in the last four. And Rodgers is well aware that the chance to lift a first trophy of his reign is now the club’s best hope for success.
“Winning the FA Cup would certainly give us a great boost as a team with lots of young players,” he said, reports Liverpool’s official website. “That's the expectancy we want. We want to be able to be challenging every year. That was the key thing for me, to get the group challenging at the top end of the league and for trophies. The FA Cup would mark a good step forward for us.
“Our attitude and our mindset are to get to the FA Cup final and win it, and we will be fighting to the very end in the league. There is everything still to play for and we can still make it a really successful season.”
Liverpool’s problems ahead of the Blackburn clash have been furthered by reports, played down by Rodgers, that a team meeting following the Arsenal defeat descended into a heated confrontation between the manager and some of his players. Rodgers’ squad will also be significantly depleted at Ewood Park. Captain Steven Gerrard and defender Martin Skrtel remain suspended for their actions against Manchester United before the international break, while Emre Can now joins them after his sending off late on at the Emirates Stadium. It means Liverpool will be particularly short in defense, where Dejan Lovren is likely to come in alongside Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho in a backline that, after a troubled season, will fuel little confidence among many.
Liverpool will certainly be targeting an improved performance from the one they produced a month ago at Anfield, when Blackburn came away with a scoreless result. Blackburn have already disposed of Premier League sides Swansea and Stoke in this season’s FA Cup, and, ever since their performance at Anfield, have been eagerly anticipating the chance to get another shot at one of England’s top clubs.
“It has been a long time since the first game where we did ourselves a hell of a lot of credit with the performance that we put out,” manager Gary Bowyer told Blackburn’s official website. “Everybody is really looking forward and is excited about the prospect of having a packed Ewood Park.
“We haven't really had much time to think about the match because this is the Championship and games come thick and fast. Of course it has been in the back of our minds, that is human nature, but the players are looking forward to testing themselves against some of the world's best players again.”
Currently lying 10th in the Championship, Blackburn should be in confident mood after beating Leeds United 3-0 away from home on Saturday. Yet Bowyer must overcome an injury crisis that could see as many as 12 players unavailable on Wednesday. The likes of Grant Hanley and striker Rudy Gestede remain doubts for a team whose resources have already been limited by a transfer embargo placed on them for breaching the Football League’s financial fair play rules.
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. ET
TV channel: Fox Sports 1