Liverpool F.C. ready to use derby as springboard, says Brendan Rodgers

Written by Reuters | Updated: Sep 26 2014, 05:43am hrs
Liverpool F.C. will relish the challenge of facing Everton in the 223rd Merseyside derby on Saturday and use it as a springboard for a much-improved run of form in the Premier League, manager Brendan Rodgers said.

After an indifferent start to the season, in which they have lost three times in five league outings, Liverpool are 11th, only three places ahead of an equally inconsistent Everton, both sides having shown defensive weaknesses that may be exposed again in their Anfield confrontation.

"In the league, with us winning two games and losing three, it's not ideal, but there are still positives to take out of it," Rodgers told a news conference on Thursday.

"If I look at the corresponding games last season, there's only a one point difference and we ended up doing okay. We know we need to be better, we know we need to improve our performance levels.

"The derby gives us an opportunity to do that. It provides a platform to go on a good, consistent run. Last season, we had a great spell after our win and I think we collected 36 points from then."

That run, following a Liverpool win on Jan. 28, carried Liverpool to second place while a much-improved Everton, under then new manager Roberto Martinez finished fifth.

"They're a good side, with very good players. They're different to us, but they've got a lot of quality," added Rodgers.

"They've probably not got the results they've wanted, but Roberto is an excellent manager. He's done a great job there and, being a derby game, it will be tough for us."

Liverpool, who sold last season's 31-goal top scorer Uruguay striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona for 81.25 million euros ($103.50 million) in July, may be without England forward Daniel Sturridge, who faces a late fitness test after missing four games with a thigh injury.

He dismissed fears over the fitness of another England forward, 19-year-old Raheem Sterling, who played all two hours of Liverpool's League Cup tie against second tier Middlesbrough on Tuesday, when they only won following an epic penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw.

"I'm not concerned, one bit," said Rodgers. "Obviously, it wasn't ideal, but we gave him a breather against Aston Villa because we knew that he was going to be important for us over a number of games coming up.

"The League Cup was important and he's a very important player for us, but he's a super-fit boy. He works and trains hard every day."

Asked about Sturridge, he added: "He certainly won't be match fit because he hasn't played for a few weeks, but it will be great to have him back because he's a wonderful player and a great reference for us at the top of the field with his pace and movement."