Rodgers: Liverpool’s season can start here

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists his side have learned from last season’s crushing defeat to Chelsea and will go looking for the victory he hopes will kick-start their season.

MADRID, SPAIN - Tuesday, November 4, 2014: Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers during the UEFA Champions League Group B match against Real Madrid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Last April Jose Mourinho, under whom Rodgers worked first time around at Stamford Bridge, came with Anfield with a tactical plan to stifle and frustrate and take advantage of any weakness.

It worked perfectly as the then free-scoring home side failed to break down a disciplined defence and were caught twice on the counter-attack – the first coming, now famously, after Steven Gerrard‘s slip allowed Demba Ba to race through to score.

The defeat was the beginning of the end of Liverpool’s title dream but now the tables have turned and it is Chelsea who are in top spot, unbeaten in their opening 10 matches.

Mourinho will have adapted his game plan for Saturday but Rodgers insists his team are ready for the considerable challenge which awaits them, having already lost at home to Aston Villa and been held by Everton and Hull.

“We will have learned from that. This is a new challenge and it will be a tough game,” said Rodgers. “Chelsea were obviously strong last year and they have big experience in their squad and know the league and that helps them massively.

“Add to that the players who have come in and Diego Costa, one of Europe’s top strikers, and Cesc Fabregas, who knows the league and is a real creative force, and add (Eden) Hazard to that who is one of the best young players in the world and they are a strong outfit.

“This offers us a great chance at home to get a great result and then hopefully that can kick-start the season for us. I can see the improvements in us day-by-day.

“We’ve had injuries and in patches we have shown the level of our game is okay but it is not consistent enough and we haven’t scored as many goals as last season.

“We are trying to find that solution and balance but that is something which is ongoing.”

Part of Rodgers’ problem is that few of his players are operating at the level they were in the second half of last season when they seemed destined to end their 24-year wait for the title.

It means he does not really know what his strongest team is, which is why all the furore over his team selection against Real Madrid in midweek needed to be viewed with some degree of perspective.

“My job is just to focus on our games,” added the Reds boss. “I will always think in the best possible way for Liverpool and look at every performance making the fans proud and it will be the same this weekend when we will pick a team to win the game.”

While Rodgers will recall big names like Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling – all rested in the Bernabeu – others may find they have been overtaken.

With defence being such a problem again this season the performance of Kolo Toure, who had not started anything other a Capital One Cup match since mid-February, has put £20 million summer signing Dejan Lovren under threat.

The 33-year-old Ivory Coast international had come to be viewed as a centre-back always likely to make a mistake but he barely put a foot wrong against the world-class talent of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

MADRID, SPAIN - Tuesday, November 4, 2014: Liverpool's Kolo Toure in action against Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Group B match at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Kolo was outstanding on the night and it is a great mark of his professionalism that he can come in and play as well as he did,” said Rodgers. “One of the reasons we wanted to bring him in was because he was the right type of character.

“He knew that he may not play as many games as he has done in the past but his influence off the field and his character is contagious.

“He loves football and has a wonderful enthusiasm for the game and whether he’s in the team or not, he’s always the same: supporting the players.

“When called upon he can do a good job, as we saw the other night with his leadership qualities and organisation. Overall, I thought he and Martin Skrtel were outstanding.”