• Premier League

Rodgers ready to lead from the front

ESPN staff
April 5, 2014
ESPN FC: Do West Ham stand a chance at Anfield

Brendan Rodgers insists that his Liverpool side have no problem leading from the front during the Premier League title run-in.

Rodgers' side hit top spot last Sunday as they beat Tottenham 4-0 at Anfield, overtaking a Chelsea side who had lost 1-0 at Crystal Palace the previous day. It is the third time the Reds have led the Premier League this season - they were top in early September after winning their opening three games, and again briefly over Christmas.

But having hit the summit again with only six games left, Liverpool are close to ending a 24-year wait to be champions of England. Rodgers' side haven risen to first place on the back of an eight-match winning league run, and the pressure is on to keep that going when they visit West Ham on Sunday. But it is a pressure that the manager insists he and his players are fine with.

"I think a lot of teams would swap to be where we are in the league. For me, the concentration is on performance," Rodgers said. "We've been performing to a real high level. What's been brilliant about this team is that we're performing in the big games, scoring goals, keeping clean sheets and showing aggression with and without the ball. That gives us confidence. But West Ham have won six out of the last nine, so it will be tough on Sunday."

Brendan Rodgers is focused on Liverpool's performance © PA Photos

Rodgers' side have less experience of chasing Premier League titles than any of the other sides in the race. Just three members of the squad - full-back Glen Johnson, central defender Kolo Toure and striker Daniel Sturridge - have won the title, while Rodgers is in only his third season as a Premier League manager. But he is unfazed by the strengths of fellow contenders Chelsea and Manchester City.

"We can't afford to worry about other teams. Manchester City are a squad full of outstanding players, they have an excellent manager, and are a club who have been building for a few years. Chelsea have experienced players and a world-class manager. If I worried about our rivals and what they've got, I'd be wasting my time and energy," he said.

"It's great for the players and supporters to dream, but we're also very focused on what our job. For me, it's about making sure the focus is on the next training session, and installing the confidence and belief in the players that we can get results. We'll continue to work that way through to the end of the season."

And despite the prospect of winning Liverpool's first league title since 1990, Rodgers insists that the first priority is still to secure Champions League qualification by ensuring they finish in the top four.

"Our focus was always to qualify for the Champions League, and if we trace it back to the beginning of the season, we knew that was always going to be a difficult task. We're in a great position at this moment, but the finish line is quite a way out. People are looking at with six games left and thinking it's nearly there. There's still a way to go," he said.

"But there's no doubt we're playing with great confidence and our victory over Tottenham was probably, psychologically, our best of the season, because of some of the background noise going into the game about pressure and having to win.

"The level we played at, and the control and the calmness of the performance, shows the confidence in the team."

Rodgers, meanwhile, said that left-back Jose Enrique is unlikely to play again this season, having been out of action since November with a knee injury, saying: "The likelihood is he will miss from now until the end of the season. The priority now is getting him fully fit and getting him ready for next season."

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