London: Slowly but surely Liverpool are edging towards the Premier League`s top four and victory over high-flying Southampton at St Mary`s on Saturday could prove crucial in their season, manager Brendan Rodgers said on Friday.
Liverpool snapped up Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren from Southampton during the close season but, as things stand, the trio would have been better off staying on the south coast as Southampton occupy the final Champions League spot.
However, seventh-placed Liverpool, who trail Southampton by four points, are yet to lose in the league this year and are showing signs of the form that earned them the runners-up spot in the Premier League last season.
"The games are now being ticked off and with 13 games to go it would be a big step for us to get the result," Rodgers told a news conference.
"We respect Southampton and what they`ve done this season but we know we have the quality and confidence to get a result there.
"If we can get a victory and go within a point, it probably takes us to where we thought it would be, edging our way towards (the top four) after a really difficult start.
"That`s what we`ll continue to do, just step by step."
Liverpool will be without injured midfielders Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva, while defenders Jose Enrique and Jon Flanagan will also miss the trip to St Mary`s through injury.
Rodgers played down talk of dressing-room unrest after enigmatic striker Mario Balotelli wrestled the ball off stand-in skipper and designated penalty-taker Jordan Henderson during Liverpool`s 1-0 Europa League victory over Besiktas on Thursday.
Liverpool captain and regular spot-kick taker Gerrard, who was working as a TV pundit after missing the game through injury, said the Italian had been "a bit mischievous" in taking the penalty.
"There`s been more drama made out of it than it was," Rodgers said. "It`s very clear who the penalty takers are. When Steven plays he is number one. With the players on at the start of the game Jordan was nominated penalty taker.
"Jordan Henderson showed last night what a team player he was by letting Mario take it.
"Maybe the etiquette wasn`t what we`d have liked but we got the end result in the end."