Brendan Rodgers has challenged his Liverpool team to reverse their title collapse of late year and put on a late-season surge to claim a Champions League place.
Liverpool could only manage a goalless draw at West Brom on Saturday, but Manchester United’s defeat to Everton the following day has kept the Reds’ top-four hopes alive heading into the climax of the season. Liverpool sit seven points behind United but still have a game in hand, at relegation-threatened Hull City on Tuesday.
“It will be a tough game away at Hull, they had a good result at the weekend, but for us the idea is to go in and see if we can get the victory and keep putting as much pressure as we possibly can on the teams above,” Rodgers said, according to Sky Sports. “We can only focus on ourselves, but we saw last year lots of changes can take place in the last five games or so. We just have to be prepared to give everything to finish as high as we can.”
Liverpool may have to overhaul United without striker Daniel Sturridge. After drawing a blank against West Brom, Rodgers bemoaned his side’s lack of goals this season following the loss of Luis Suarez to Barcelona and the injuries that have plagued Sturridge throughout this campaign. The former Chelsea forward has been limited to only seven Premier League starts and Rodgers has hinted that he may not return from his latest problem before the end of the season.
“When he's been fit he's been brilliant for the team, the key now is to see if we can get him back fit and consistently playing,” he said. “We'll see if that's going to be this season or the pre-season. We'll do what's in the best interests of him; we have to protect Daniel and make sure he's going to be here over the next number of years, playing and playing to the level that we all know he can.”
Liverpool started with Mario Balotelli up front at the Hawthorns, but withdrew the Italian for Fabio Borini 15 minutes from the end. Between them this season, the pair have just two Premier Leaguer goals to their name, with Rodgers’ other current option Rickie Lambert scoring only two more. Against Hull Rodgers may revert to lining up with Raheem Sterling as the central forward in a front three. However, Liverpool will also have to do without the still injured Lucas Leiva and Mamadou Sakho, while Alberto Moreno remains a doubt.
The task for whoever lines up will be to avoid a repeat of the goalless draw recorded at home to Hull earlier in the season. And that challenge now looks tougher after this weekend. Hull had not tasted victory in six matches before going to Crystal Palace on Saturday and winning 2-0 to keep themselves out of the relegation zone.
Like Liverpool, goalscoring has been a major issue for Hull of late, and they remain without injured striker Nikica Jelavic. But Saturday’s much-needed victory came thanks to two goals from January signing Dame N’Doye. And the Senegal international has outlined how crucial it is for he and his teammates to make the most of the opportunities that fall their way in front of goal if they are to preserve their Premier League status.
“We knew we needed the three points on Saturday because we are not in a good position in the table,” he said, reports Hull City’s official website. “We had to take our chance on because we want to stay in the top league.
“We were unlucky in our last game against Southampton where we passed the ball well and had chances but ended up losing. So we were looking forward to playing Crystal Palace and I thought we showed our character and a performance to get a win. We missed a lot of chances on Saturday, but we have been working hard in training to make sure we make the chances and make the most of them.”
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra