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Agger: "It's Been a Difficult Time for Me"

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Following his return to the starting lineup against Fulham, Daniel Agger reflected on Liverpool's chances of a top four finish this year and the difficulty he's had watching others start ahead of him in recent weeks.

Clive Brunskill

Liverpool's unexpectedly strong start to the season may have taken a hit at the Emirates as title contenders Arsenal showed there remains some way to go between where the club is now and where they want to be, but a strong performance against a dispirited Fulham side at least showed the players weren't about to start feeling sorry for themselves on the back of one bad game. Title talk may realistically still be a few years off at best, but hope for a top four finish and with it a return to the Champions League remains the goal.

"There is still a long way to go but all the guys here want to play in the Champions League again," said Daniel Agger, heading off to join Denmark for their friendly against Norway on Friday and sporting a complimentary set of half-skull tattoos on his thumbs. "The team is looking more solid this season. It's been a few seasons now without Champions League football here, [and] when you have played in it before, that's where you want to be. That's where all the best players, all the best teams are. We definitely want to be in the top four and you can see that hunger out on the pitch."

That Fulham look a broken side of late under the embattled Martin Jol certainly helped Liverpool's chances of bouncing back from the Arsenal defeat, but Liverpool deserve credit for taking the game to Fulham when a poor start could have given the visitors hope. Agger credits it to a growing belief amongst the squad that the top four really is a possibility this season and a determination to work as hard as it takes to keep themselves up near the top of the league table.

"There was not only a good performance against Fulham in terms of scoring four goals and keeping a clean sheet, but we were all running a lot and working for each other," he added. "If you want to finish in the top four of the Premier League, that's so important—maybe even more important than the quality. Ever since I've been here the league has got stronger and stronger every season. It's getting more and more tight. From the outside that probably makes it better to watch."

If competition between teams in the Premier League to finish in the European places has gotten stronger in recent years, this season has seen the competition for playing time in Liverpool's defence similarly ratcheted up. As a result of the arrival of Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure along with the resurgence of Martin Skrtel, Liverpool now have four centre halves capable of starting every week and, with a return to four at the back, only two spots to play them in. It's meant Agger is no longer guaranteed to start when healthy, and that's something the defender admits to having struggled with.

"I knew I would be playing against Fulham a few days before the game from how things were in training," he said. "It was good to be back as it's been a difficult time for me. It's difficult to describe really. I want to play every single game, [and] when you are not playing, it's difficult. I just tried to work even harder every single day in training. I didn't complain—I just did everything with that little bit extra.

"I feel like I am more than capable to be in the team but it's the manager's decision. Sometimes it's difficult to change that in training. You have to grab the chance when it's there. That's what football is all about, to take your chances. I'm not the type of player who needs an explanation. I just carry on with my thing and try to do everything I can to get back in the team. I was out of the team for longer than I hoped for but when you get a chance you have to do everything you can to keep it."

After a strong showing by Agger on his return to action, and even if manager Brendan Rodgers has hinted there could be some rotation at the back, the safe money is probably on him keeping the starting role against Everton following the international break.

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