BURNLEY, December 25 – Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is confident his side can still go on to enjoy a successful season as they go in search of some Christmas cheer at Burnley on Friday.
Liverpool are 10th in the Premier League and have no realistic chance of repeating last season’s title challenge, having not failed to win in their last three league games and recording just one away league win since mid-October.
But just one defeat in eight games in all competitions at least hints at some resilience and Rodgers has been encouraged by his team’s recent performances.
Liverpool booked a place in the semi-finals of the League Cup by winning 3-1 at second-tier Bournemouth last week and scored late to draw 2-2 with Arsenal at Anfield last Sunday.
After their trip to third-bottom Burnley, Liverpool sign off for 2014 with a home game against Rodgers’s former side Swansea City before facing bottom club Leicester at Anfield on New Year’s Day.
And the manager believes they can make amends for a poor start to the season.
“The opening part of this season has been less impressive. That’s the reality of it. We haven’t hit anywhere near the heights that we would expect,” Rodgers said.
“There have been reasons for that, which we don’t want to go on about all the time.
“But what I have seen in these last numbers of weeks is that belief and confidence starting to grow again.
“Our performance level, which is key to me as that will bring us results, is starting to return, so hopefully we can finish the remainder of the year in a confident spirit and then go into the New Year and really look to attack the second part of the season.
“If we do that, we are still in cup competitions, and we could have a very good year despite all the doom and gloom maybe that was around in the first part of the season.”
– ‘Perception changes’ –
Despite his forecast, Rodgers says he will not be under-estimating Sean Dyche’s Burnley, who are mounting a determined effort to stay in the top flight.
“I know Sean very well,” said the Northern Irishman, who welcomes Mario Balotelli back from suspension but is without the suspended Fabio Borini.
“We worked together at Watford, and he has done a great job at Burnley with very limited resources.
“When you get promoted, the first games can be daunting. It’s a new level, new opponents, a quicker tempo. And it was just going to be the case of them getting that first result.
“And once they got that, you saw the confidence in the team. We understand it is going to be a difficult game for us.”
Burnley manager Dyche believes Rodgers has become a victim of his own success after Liverpool’s efforts in finishing second last season.
“He’s got his question marks now, but in the grand scheme of things he’s a good coach,” said the Burnley manager.
“I think overall Brendan’s done very, very well. It’s just that the demands from last season, going so high, are seemingly making what’s happening now look nowhere near as good as before.
“The perception of what they are changes on the fact that last year they went so close to taking it (the title). I think it was a fantastic achievement to get so close last year.”
Burnley, who are unbeaten in their last four home matches, could include Sam Vokes in their squad for the first time since March.
The Wales striker, who scored 21 goals last season, has recovered after suffering knee ligament damage.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,