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Rodgers warns Liverpool - tighten up or lose your place

ESPN staff
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Brendan Rodgers says his Liverpool defence must improve their focus away from home if the club is to sustain a Premier League title challenge next season.

Rodgers' side could still be this year's champions - although the only likely way that will happen is if they beat Newcastle at Anfield in their final game on Sunday and Manchester City lose at home to West Ham.

Despite scoring 99 goals in the league - to City's 100 - they have shipped 49 goals throughout the season, compared with City's tally of 37. After watching his team surrender a 3-0 lead in 11 minutes at Crystal Palace, Rodgers criticised his defence for a "comic book collapse" - and has since warned his squad to shape up at the back.

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"We know the areas we need to improve. We've got 99 goals. It's fairly clear and simple for me - we need to improve defensively away from home," Rodgers said.

"In terms of conceding goals at home, we're ranked in the best five. We've conceded 17 goals at home. But away from home, we've conceded 32. And it's not even so much about structure. It's about concentration for me.

"We've conceded those 32 goals away from home, yet we went to Old Trafford and didn't concede, we went to Tottenham and didn't concede, we went to Southampton and didn't concede.

"But the other night, when we were 3-0 up, we conceded three goals. We conceded three goals at Cardiff, although we won. There are games I've looked at away from home where, even though we've won, we haven't defended well enough.

"So that will be the focus. We'll continue with the philosophy that's got us into this position, but we'll tighten up away from home. That will be key for us next season."

Rodgers, who is targeting a summer swoop for Adam Lallana, revealed he has watched the 3-3 draw at Palace three times since Monday to try to figure out what went wrong. His solution, however, may not sit well with his squad.

"If you can't keep your concentration long enough, you'll lose your place in the squad. It's as simple as that," Rodgers said. "We've played in big games this season and shown real solidity defensively. But we went to Cardiff and, yes, we scored six goals, but we conceded three.

"We went to Stoke and scored five, but conceded three. We conceded three at Palace, three at Hull.

"The game at Palace the other night was difficult. I've watched the game three times since, and I'm still in shock when I see up ending up drawing the game 3-3.

"To have that much control and good organisation in the game, and then to let that go with 12 minutes to go, it shouldn't happen.

"There's an element of quality from the opponent, but I analyse the games intensely and a big part of it is concentration. It's about organisation - concentrating on your job.

"In the game the other night at Palace, if it had been 0-0, we wouldn't have conceded the first goal that we did. But because it's 3-0, you can think that the game is over. We'll really focus on that part of our game going into next season.

"When I came in here, I knew we had to improve our goals tally, so we went from 47 in a season to 99 so far this season. I will do the same with the defence as well."

Despite the fact that Rodgers expects City to beat West Ham on Sunday and clinch the title, he insists his players have plenty to be proud of.

"I've had great pride in how the players have dealt with the pressure," Rodgers said. "That's a question that's been asked of them a lot. Can they cope with the pressure? It's clear that they can.

"I think we'll improve dramatically next season. We've got young players who have gone through an experience that will only serve them well for the future. And don't forget Steven Gerrard. He's 33 years of age and this is his first sample of this type of run-in. He will be better next year also.

"So for us, it's only the beginning and we're looking forward to finishing this season strongly."

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