Brendan Rodgers has conceded that Liverpool are far from the finished article, but believes his side are well on the road to lifting a Premier League title.
A seventh place finish in Rodgers’s first season meant that ambitions in this, his second, campaign were limited to breaking back into the top four. But a run of six straight Premier League victories has thrust Liverpool right into the thick of the title race. With eight games remaining, Liverpool sit in third place, four points adrift of Chelsea, but with a game in hand, and a point behind Manchester City, who have played a game fewer.
Last week’s 6-3 victory over Cardiff City encapsulated the reasons both why Liverpool could win the title ahead of schedule this season and also the reasons why they may just come up short. Led by Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool continue to be imperious going forward. With 82 goals to date they could yet even break the 100-goal barrier. But there continue to be concerns without the ball that Rodgers suggested could yet scupper their hopes this season.
“We haven't won it for a long time and it may or may not be this year but there is no doubt we are on the right road to winning a title here, there’s no question about that," Rodgers said
"We are nowhere near the finished article but we are evolving and I take great pride in that. While we are learning and improving we will hopefully continue to pick up points. We are enjoying the moment and the football. We still have a hell of a way to go to be near where I want us to be but we are certainly making strides and are on the right path.”
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With game still to come against Chelsea and Manchester City, Liverpool will need to pick up the three points when they host struggling Sunderland on Wednesday. Despite a good period around the New Year and their strong performances in both domestic cup competitions, a run of four matches without a win in the league has left Wearsiders still languishing in the relegation zone. Yet, despite being three points from safety, they have at least two games in hand on the teams above them.
Without a goal in their last three matches and with Steven Fletcher injured and fellow-forward Fabio Borini ineligible against his former club on Wednesday, Poyet has recalled Connor Wickham from his loan spell at Championship side Leeds United. And Poyet is hoping that the England Under-21 international can make a sizable impact in the closing weeks of the season.
"It's about searching for a solution and it could be Connor Wickham," he said, according to The Guardian.
“We need something to happen, and I need to find that season-changing moment. Between the Liverpool game and Monday against West Ham at home, I have to find something. It could be Connor Wickham because there is a big possibility he will start at Liverpool. Connor's going to get a great chance now.”
Sunderland will also be without left-back Marcos Alonso after he was sent off in the 2-0 defeat at Norwich City at the weekend. Liverpool left-back Jose Enrique is the only player unavailable to Rodgers.
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 4 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.