Brendan Rodgers has dismissed the suggestion from Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood that Liverpool could start to feel the pressure as they continue their title challenge into the final weeks of the season. Favorable results on Saturday mean that Liverpool host Spurs on Sunday just a point off the top of the Premier League table. And speaking on Friday, Sherwood, who won the title as a player with Blackburn Rovers, believes that, having not been seen as serious contenders all season, the Merseysiders now face a real test of nerve.
“After winning so many titles in their time, they're very, very close -- one point off the lead and they’re absolutely flying,” he said. “Now they have to believe they've got something there that might fall through their grasp and slip away and - believe me - that's a real bad feeling to have because perhaps you don't play with the freedom you'd played with earlier on in the season. I know what it's like myself. It all depends on how they can hold their nerve.”
But Rodgers has a very different perspective. Having finished seventh in his first season in charge last term, he doesn’t believe there are any expectations on his team’s shoulders to be where they currently sit. Indeed, he turned the gaze back on Sherwood and pointed at Tottenham as a club who had loftier goals than his own at the start of the campaign.
"We're very relaxed," he said, according to Sky Sports. "We're focused. There was no expectation on us being where we are, so there's certainly no pressure.
"I suppose the likes of Tottenham are a team who were maybe looking to be challenging for the league this season. You spend £100m-odd -- it's a group that's set up to challenge. There's certainly no pressure on ourselves, and I think we've shown that over the course of the season. We're playing with no fear.”
Liverpool produced a rampaging performance characteristic of their season when the sides last met. A 5-0 win at White Hart Lane in December brought Andre Villas-Boas’ reign to an end and enabled Sherwood to get his first managerial opportunity. After a positive run in the league to begin his reign, things have taken a downturn of late to leave plenty of questions over Sherwood’s future for next season. Some respite was provided when Spurs snapped a streak of four matches without a win when coming from a two goals down to get a morale-boosting 3-2 victory over Southampton last weekend.
Many observers, including Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, have pointed to the advantage Liverpool have had in not playing in Europe this season. But unlike their opponents, Liverpool didn’t have the luxury of a week to prepare for the fixture having taken on Sunderland on Wednesday. Their certainly appeared to be some anxiety on show in that contest when the relegation strugglers pulled within a goal of the Reds in the closing minutes. But Liverpool showed resolve to dig out the victory and remain firmly in the title race.
Crucially, Liverpool have the advantage of almost a full-strength squad to choose from, with only left-back Jose Enrique out injured. In contrast, Tottenham continue to struggle with injuries, with Emmanuel Adebayor still a doubt with a cut on his heel. Vlad Chiriches made his return for the Under-21 side on Friday, but still remains unavailable for the first team, as do Erik Lamela and Kyle Walker. Mousa Dembele has recovered after being forced off at half-time against Southampton.
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 11 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream provided by NBC Sports Live Extra.