Derby "Not a Benchmark" for Liverpool

Gareth Copley

With Everton ahead by a fair margin in the table, talk of Liverpool's struggles to defeat top-half opposition has kicked back in, but Brendan Rodgers insists that Sunday's visitors don't represent any sort of high-water mark for the club.

"We had a difficult start [this season] - we didn't win a game until the end of September. But in terms of where the club has come and how it has grown over the months, I'll pay great respect to the players and the staff, who have worked very, very hard. For us [the Everton game] is not a benchmark at all - it's another game for us to show we have the qualities to compete.

"We've just got to maintain the standards that we've set in the second half of the season and, in particular, last week's performance. There was everything there, in terms of our defensive performance and our intensity. There was real quality in our offensive game, so for us the idea is to maintain that standard. We know it's going to be a very difficult game but whether we win 5-0, 6-0 or 1-0, the objective will be to win."

--Brendan Rodgers' pre-match presser

Of the many points of contention that folks have had with Brendan Rodgers this season, few have been as frequently noted as his tendency to overstate a point or use hyperbolic language in describing the most mundane of tasks or performances. The constant references to the top four--and at one point, Liverpool's distance from second place in league--were met with justified eye rolls, especially as the club's form belied assertions that they weren't too far off the league's top sides in terms of quality.

That may very well have been true, particularly in performances against the Manchester clubs, Arsenal away, and in the two draws against Chelsea, but the numbers don't lie, and with Liverpool so far off of a realistic shot at Champions League qualification, talk of the top four served only to annoy rather than inspire.

Over the last few weeks and months, it seems like Rodgers has finally gotten the point; drifting further down the table likely has a large part to play in that, but the first-year manager headed down the path of his predecessor, instead focusing on the match on the immediate horizon rather than imagined rewards that the club's performances hadn't come close to earning.

Ahead of Sunday's derby at Anfield, he could have very easily been drawn into such language again, as a win against Everton--who currently sit five points ahead of Liverpool and have an outside shot at finishing in a European spot--could inch Liverpool closer to nudging past their neighbors. But as has become the norm of late, Rodgers wasn't drawn on such talk, again invoking the attitude of Kenny Dalglish by placing the focusing squarely on what's directly in front of them.

Talk of expectations for the next campaign is already unavoidable, and there's no doubt that at some point Brendan Rodgers will expound upon his hopes for what Liverpool can accomplish come this time next year. That's part of the job, and, as long as it's colored with the approach he indicates here, the type of stuff that'll leave the manager in better stead as he leads his squad into next season.

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