Brendan Rodgers wants silver finish to Liverpool surge

AFP| Last Updated: Mar 07, 2015, 08:39 AM IST
Brendan Rodgers wants silver finish to Liverpool surge

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has challenged his players to turn their scintillating current form into silverware ahead of Sunday`s FA Cup quarter-final at home to second-tier Blackburn Rovers.

After a poor start to the campaign, Liverpool have rediscovered their swagger in 2015, winning seven of their last eight Premier League games to revitalise their push for Champions League qualification.

Only Wolfsburg, who have taken 16 points from a possible 18, can rival Liverpool`s return of 23 points from a possible 27 since the turn of the year in Europe`s top five leagues and with a Wembley semi-final within touching distance, Rodgers wants his side to make their form count.

"The first year here was about integration," he told his pre-match press conference. "The second-year objective was to get in the Champions League. This season I felt we had the depth to challenge for trophies.

"If we can arrive in the top four and win a trophy, that will be success for us this season."

Rodgers has yet to lift a trophy in his two and a half years at Anfield and it is three years since Liverpool last won something.

They visited Wembley twice in the space of three months in 2012, beating Cardiff City on penalties in the League Cup final and then losing 2-1 to Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

Rodgers succeeded Kenny Dalglish less than a month after that loss to Chelsea and having steered Liverpool to the brink of last season`s league title, his shrewd mid-season adjustments -- notably the introduction of a 3-4-2-1 formation -- have got the club back on the trophy trail.

With Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur among the teams to have fallen by the wayside already and with only one of Manchester United and Arsenal guaranteed to make the semi-finals, Liverpool`s fans could be forgiven for thinking the stars are aligning for their team.

Underpinning the club`s quest for an eighth FA Cup is the desire to give Steven Gerrard a glorious send-off in the final, which falls on his 35th birthday, before his departure for the Los Angeles Galaxy.The Liverpool captain has missed Liverpool`s last six games with a hamstring problem, but returned to training this week and could be in contention to feature against Gary Bowyer`s Blackburn.

Liverpool are unbeaten at Anfield since November 8 and Blackburn have not won there in 11 visits, but it is a ground that holds fond memories for the Lancashire club, who are currently 10th in the Championship.

It was there, in May 1995, that a team bankrolled by late former owner Jack Walker pipped Manchester United to the Premier League title despite a nerve-jangling 2-1 loss to Liverpool on the season`s final day.

Five years later, on their last visit to Anfield in the FA Cup, Blackburn pulled off a shock 1-0 win courtesy of a coolly taken late goal by Welsh striker Nathan Blake.

Blackburn have already seen off two Premier League sides in this season`s competition -- Swansea City and Stoke City -- and Bowyer is relishing the prospect of pitting himself against Liverpool.

"It`s David versus Goliath," said the Blackburn manager. "Nobody`s giving us a chance outside of our dressing room.

"I think they`re the most impressive team in the Premier League at the moment and the football that they`re playing is fantastic. Obviously full credit to the manager for the way he changed his formation.

"We`ve studied the videos, we`ve come up with a game plan, and we`ve worked with the players on it. We`ll go and take the challenge to Liverpool."

Blackburn`s hopes of an upset have been beset by injuries, however. Josh King, who scored a hat-trick against Stoke, is sidelined along with Shane Duffy, Jason Lowe, Alex Baptiste and Grant Hanley.