• Premier League

Rodgers ready to wreck World Cup hopes

ESPN staff
April 3, 2014
ESPN FC: Title within reach of Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers has told Lucas Leiva Liverpool have to come before Brazil as they seek their first Premier League title for 24 years.

The manager has praised the midfielder's "incredible attitude" while he has been kept in the shadows after recovery from medial knee ligament damage.

Leiva, 27, was out for eight weeks after sustaining the injury during the 2-2 league draw against Aston Villa in January but, including his return last month, he has only played twice since and both times as a substitute.

"I respect all the players and their needs but I can only think of Liverpool," said Rodgers as many of his squad keep an eye on national team selection for this summer's World Cup. "I want what's best for Liverpool. That's where my concentration is."

Liverpool face tricky Champions League draw

  • Liverpool could face a Champions League 'Group of Death' next season - even if Brendan Rodgers' side win the Premier League title, according to the Daily Telegraph.
  • The five-time European champions are currently 32nd in UEFA's coefficient table after failing to qualify for the Champions League since the 2009-10 season - meaning they are almost certain to be seeded in pot three.
  • That could leave the Anfield club facing the prospect of being drawn alongside Bayern Munich and Juventus, or Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.
  • Manchester City are likely to be promoted from pot three to pot two due to qualifying for the knockout stages.

Tim Sherwood at Tottenham is taking a similarly hard line to Rodgers with Leiva's compratiot Paulinho and other Premier League managers may do well to brace themselves for problems with fringe players as the summer showpiece gets closer.

The Liverpool manager's stance on Leiva is a result of his decision to switch from using two holding midfielders to just one and finding captain Steven Gerrard has flourished in that position.

But failure to win back a regular spot at club level could hamper the chances of Leiva of playing for his country at the finals in his homeland of Brazil.

The midfielder played his first international games in nearly two years when he was selected for Brazil's final four fixtures of 2013.

"I've got to say Lucas has been absolutely incredible in his attitude," said Rodgers. "It's been hard for him because he played a high percentage of the games when he was fit and obviously then got his injury."

But Leiva's injury ruled him out of the 5-0 friendly win over South Africa in Johannesburg on March 5, and his place in Luis Felipe Scolari's 23-man squad is far from secure.

Rodgers thinks that Lucas will make his national team - and has praised him for not kicking up a fuss over the issue as Liverpool chase their first league title since 1990.

The manager told the Liverpool Echo he hopes Leiva's spot on the team won't hinge on his lack of playing time during Liverpool's stretch run in the Premier League.

"For those games he has gone away with the team, I am sure they will have been impressed with him," said Rodgers. "For a World Cup, he will be great for their squad."

Leiva could be called on to step in if anything happens to Gerrard, who must get through Liverpool's next two matches without a booking in order to avoid a two-game suspension.

"He has made it known to me that he just wants to help whenever he's called upon, whether it's for one minute or 90 minutes, he will be ready," said Rodgers.

Lucas is likely to be on the bench again when the Premier League leaders travel to West Ham on Sunday.

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