Liverpool ready for Chelsea clash – Rodgers

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NORWICH (AFP) – Brendan Rodgers is confident his Liverpool players possess the necessary ingredients to get the better of title rivals Chelsea when the two teams meet at Anfield this weekend.

Liverpool will go into that game five points ahead of Jose Mourinho’s side following their 3-2 win at Norwich City on Sunday, which followed an unexpected victory by bottom club Sunderland at Chelsea the previous day.

Victory next Sunday would put Liverpool within touching distance of their first ever Premier League title with two games left to play.

UNITED THEY STAND: Liverpool's Steven Gerrard, fourth left, celebrates with teammates after scoring his second penalty against West Ham at Upton Park in London on Sunday. (Reuters)

UNITED THEY STAND: Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard, fourth left, celebrates with teammates after scoring his second penalty against West Ham at Upton Park in London on Sunday. (Reuters)

Their rise to the top of the table, which has also seen them overtake Manchester City and Arsenal, has been achieved through attractive, attacking play and Rodgers gave an insight into the philosophy that has helped them get there.

“When they are in the changing room just before we go out, I always tell them, ‘Lose yourself, focus on the ball and focus on the team. If you do that, then we can be a real force,’” he said.

“You have seen all the characteristics of our team today (Sunday) — wonderful invention and creativity, courage, arrogance on the ball, goal-scoring, young players and senior players all playing, and instructions that allow them to express themselves.

“It’s going to be a brilliant game next weekend with Chelsea coming to Anfield. The supporters will be right up for it and the players as well. We are looking forward to it.”

Raheem Sterling scored two of Liverpool’s goals at Carrow Road, either side of Luis Suarez’s 30th Premier league goal of the season, and Rodgers hailed the England international for his contribution.

“He is arguably the best young player in European football at the moment,” Rodgers said.

“He is 19 years of age and if he doesn’t win the (Professional Footballers’ Association) Young Player of the Year award, it’s ridiculous.

“I have been really pleased with his maturity. He puts an awful lot of time into his work and we have tried to play him in different positions to improve his football intelligence.

“He’s got that in-built belief that he can be a good player, but he’s a really humble lad.”

- Hillsborough inspiration -

Rodgers also revealed that the victory at Norwich had been inspired by a speech given by the head of the Hillsborough Family Support Group at last week’s memorial service to mark the 25th anniversary of the disaster.

Margaret Aspinall, whose son, James, was one of 96 Liverpool fans crushed to death during an FA Cup semi-final at Sheffield’s Hillsborough stadium in 1989, was one of several people to speak at the service, including Rodgers himself.

“We were at the memorial service this week. There was hope for the families there as well,” said the Liverpool manager.

“I used some words of Margaret Aspinall. We put them up on the wall (in the changing room).

“She talked about stress and how it can prove difficult for you, but it can also offer you great determination to fight, and that is what we gave the players today.

“This is all one club at this moment in time and we are all fighting to achieve the ultimate goal.”

Liverpool have now won their last 11 Premier league games, but Norwich have lost their last four and are in danger of being overtaken by each of the three teams below them in the relegation slots.

Manager Neil Adams saw Gary Hooper and Robert Snodgrass find the Liverpool net and was encouraged by his side’s improved second-half performance, which will have to be replicated in their final fixtures, against Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

“The performances in the past two games have been first-class, but we have to get the points,” he said.

“The belief is there and we are 100 percent committed to staying in the division.”

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