Liverpool’s exile from European competition this season is something no one at the Merseyside club will have desired. Yet it could well give them a crucial advantage on their rivals in the hectic closing months of the season as they push for a place in the top four and just perhaps even more.
On Sunday, Liverpool’s lack of continental action could again count in their favor when they take on a Swansea City side who less than 72 hours earlier were involved in a high-profile duel in the Europa League against Napoli.
Liverpool’s fixture list will be even lighter for the remainder of the season after their controversial and unfortunate defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup last weekend. In the Premier League they have been on a impressive run of five wins and two draws form their seven matches in 2014. And Rodgers is determined to give his side a chance of this time next season being involved in the latter stages of the Champions League.
"It's vitally important -- for us to go to that next level, that's where we need to be," he said, according to Liverpool’s official website. "I took over a team that was eighth, and that's what we've been building towards over the last 18 months. If we can get to that elite competition, then of course it attracts a different type of player as well. It's very important and hopefully it will be this year.”
The Champions League remains a clear priority for Rodgers, although with Liverpool now just four appoints off the Premier League summit, the club’s fans will doubtless be dreaming of a first title in 24 years.
Swansea’s ambitions remain far more modest. However, the situation looks brighter than when Garry Monk took over as caretaker manager earlier this month. Four points from two Premier League games meant they went into the weekend in 10th place, albeit still just four points clear of the drop zone.
After their FA Cup exit to Everton last week, Swansea can be hugely encouraged by an impressive display against Napoli in the first leg of their last-32 tie. Despite a goalless draw, Swansea were on top for much of the contest against the side sitting third in Serie A. Defender Angel Rangel explained that they head to Anfield with confidence, although with the caveat that Liverpool’s fearsome forward duo Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturrdige will have to be kept in check.
“We have to make sure we keep Sturridge and Suarez quiet, but as long as we are solid as a team and create chances like we did on Thursday night then I’m sure we can get a good result,” he said, according to Swansea City’s official website.
“That performance has given us a lot of confidence. Hopefully we can use that to get a result on Sunday.”
Nathan Dyer is an injury doubt for Swansea after being forced to come off against Napoli. Jonjo Shelvey may be included in the lineup against his former club after returning from a recent layoff off the bench on Thursday but Michu is still struggling with his long-term ankle problem.
Liverpool could have Glen Johnson back in the squad, but remain without Lucas Leiva, Mamadou Sakho and Jose Enrique.
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 8.30 a.m. ET on Sunday. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream available via NBC Sports Live Extra.