Brendan Rodgers insists his Liverpool squad is strong enough to compete on all fronts going forward to the end of the season. Liverpool visit Bolton Wanderers at on Wednesday in an FA Cup fourth round replay, just a week after being eliminated by Chelsea at the semifinal stage of the Capital One Cup. Also in the Europa League and with a battle on for a top-four place in the Champions League, already the Merseysiders are close to reaching the total number of games they played throughout last season, when they had no European action and exited both domestic cup competitions early on.
“I think we played 42 games last year and up to now we've played 39,” Rodgers said, according to Liverpool’s official website. “The idea was to bring in a squad that could cope with that. Of course there was a lot of development for those players in there. They have been brought in because we want to be for a number of years now in competitions until late on and challenging for leagues and for that you need to have a good squad.
“We are in two cup competitions and we want to go as far as we possibly can in them. That will be reflected in our teams, our drive and our desire to get through in the competition.”
Liverpool bolstered their squad strongly in the summer, but opted not to make any additions in the January transfer window, which ended on Monday. Interest in bringing forward striker Divock Origi’s arrival from Lille, where he has been loaned back for the season, failed to lead to an agreement being struck. Indeed, the one deal that looked close to happening on deadline day was a striker exiting the club, but Rickie Lambert turned down a transfer to Aston Villa.
There is reason for Rodgers to be confident about the squad at his disposal heading into the climax of the season. After a dismal start to the campaign as they tried to back up their runner-up spot in the Premier League last term, Liverpool have increasingly shown signs of their former selves of late. A 1-0 defeat to Chelsea after extra time last week was Liverpool’s only loss in their last 12 matches. On Saturday there was a further boost for the club, when Daniel Sturridge returned from a five month absence and scored within 12 minutes of coming off the bench to complete a 2-0 win over West Ham United.
Liverpool lacked a cutting edge, though, in their first meeting with Bolton late last month. A goalless draw means the tie goes back to the Macron Stadium, where Bolton manger Neil Lennon is hopeful his team can give the Premier League side a few problems.
“We’re still in the tie, the players have earned the right to play Liverpool again,” he said. “It’s another opportunity for players to prove they can compete against one of the best teams in the country.
“I was very pleased with the performance at Anfield. It’s a little bit different now. I’d imagine Liverpool will still have the bulk of possession, they may try and play cat and mouse and try and counter attack. They do counter attack very well and we have to be wary of that. I do feel we should be able to create more chances, particularly at home.”
Unlike Liverpool, Bolton were extremely active during the January transfer window. Yet none of their seven arrivals will be able to feature on Wednesday, having not been registered before the first match at Anfield. Former Liverpool striker Emile Heskey will also miss out through injury.
Prediction: Even in defeat against Chelsea, Liverpool impressed and showed that they have rediscovered their attacking dynamism. With Raheem Sterling and now Sturridge offering pace in behind and the rejuvenated Philippe Coutinho picking out the passes, they are a real threat again. Rodgers’ defense, helped by the ball-playing ability and composure of Emre Can and growing-in-stature Mamadou Sakho is also improved. Against a Bolton team missing key options up front and not in the best of form in the league, Liverpool should come through at the second time of asking to secure a trip to Crystal Palace in the fifth round.
Bolton 0-2 Liverpool
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EST
TV channel: Fox Sports 1