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Rodgers hits back: Tottenham should be title contenders

ESPN staff
March 28, 2014 « Liverpool are struggling with title pressure - Sherwood | Test Wayin World Cup »
Brendan Rodgers and his players showed no signs of pressure during a training session on Friday © Getty Images
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Brendan Rodgers has hit back at Tim Sherwood's claim that Liverpool are suffering from Premier League title nerves by suggesting Tottenham have underachieved this season.

Liverpool, who face Tottenham at Anfield on Sunday, have emerged as surprise contenders this season as they chase a first league crown since 1990.

However, Rodgers' side were less than convincing in their narrow midweek victory against Sunderland, which led Sherwood to believe they are beginning to feel the pressure at the top.

We're not a two-man team, says Rodgers

Steven Gerrard scored against Sunderland © Getty Images
  • Brendan Rodgers has rebuffed claims that Liverpool are over-reliant on the goals of top-scorer Luis Suarez and captain Steven Gerrard.
  • Before Sunderland's loss to Liverpool on Wednesday, in which Gerrard scored the opening goal, Gus Poyet claimed Liverpool would be mid-table without Suarez.
  • However, Rodgers hit back at suggestions his side are a two-man team and insists they are challenging for a first league title since 1990 because of their overall team performances.
  • "It was levelled at us the other night that if we didn't have Luis Suarez's goals, we'd be mid-table, which is probably quite disrespectful to the other players," Rodgers said.
  • "At various times while I've been here, we've had Luis out and won games, we've had Steven out and we've won games, we've had Coutinho out and we've won games, we've had Sturridge out and we've won games, so what we're building here is the collective.
  • "And actually, when Luis was playing, I believe the team finished eighth and seventh, so it's not just about one player. It's about creating a collective spirit and quality to our game, and that's what we've done."

Rodgers, who has backed his players to keep calm and embrace their position near the top, has responded by suggesting Tottenham, currently sixth in the league, should be challenging for the title after investing over £100 million in their squad last summer.

"I can tell from our perspective here that the players and the group are very relaxed, but focused," Rodgers said. "There's no expectation on us being where we are, so there's certainly no pressure on us.

"Tottenham were a team maybe looking to challenge for the league this season. They spent £100-odd million on a group that was set up to challenge. But there's no pressure on us. We've shown that over the course of the season."

Sherwood believes a lack of experience at the top could prove to be the undoing of Liverpool's title challenge this season.

But after learning his trade as a youth and reserve team coach, in which he spent a considerable time working under current title rival Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, Rodgers admits he is focused on bringing long-term success to Merseyside.

"It's not as if I'm new to it. I'm enjoying the position and seeing us develop as a team and a club," Rodgers said. "The experience issue can work both ways. If you have the experience, then you maybe know what's ahead, but also you can look at it from the other perspective.

"You can look at our team and us as a staff, and see that we're very hungry to succeed. And that hunger can sometimes be a real advantage.

"We've seen it already this season. There are other teams with more experienced players than ours, who have won more titles. But we've shown as a team that we're growing and developing.

"We're looking to put something in place not just for this one season. It's a process that started 18 months ago, and we're looking to create sustainable success."

Former mentor Mourinho, however, believes the pressure has been eased on Liverpool by insisting Rodgers and Co have the perfect run-in ahead of the season's climax.

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