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Rodgers Expects Liverpool Response at Old Trafford

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Liverpool head to Manchester United far from the team that dominated the title holders in the spring, but Brendan Rodgers expects his side to take advantage of the occasion and get the result.

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Liverpool entered last weekend with a sense of momentum after two straight league wins and an improved performance in the draw against Ludogorets that left their Champions League destiny in their own hands. Fixtures against Sunderland and Basel appeared winnable, and if Brendan Rodgers could guide his squad to victory in both, there would be plenty of reason for positivity headed into a busy month of December.

And while Liverpool didn't lose either fixture, both results felt like a step backward--Rodgers' side were limp in the 0-0 home draw against Sunderland, with little impetus going forward, and for a good portion of the 1-1 draw at Basel that saw them relegated to the Europa League they were thoroughly outplayed. Unbeaten in five matches, but still two steps backward ahead of week that will see them face sides they had expected to challenge for a spot in the top four.

The week starts with a trip to Old Trafford in a fixture Liverpool thoroughly dominated last season, with Rodgers proudly announcing "it was United's ground, mostly their supporters, but it was our ball" after a comprehensive 3-0 win. Things are a little different this time around, but Rodgers remains resolute that Liverpool will respond to recent struggles with the performance needed for a result:

"It's a very important game - it always is. It's a massive game in the fixture list in this country and for various reasons. It's a game that we go into and want to do well in. It was an outstanding result and performance last season and if we could replicate that then we'll be very happy.

"You're doing different activities and thinking of different ways to work. You know with players or with anyone's social life, you'll perform better in anything you do if you're happy and confident. We're obviously not happy to be out and miss out on an objective for this season, but I repeat, you can't dwell on it. We've got another game and a vitally important week coming up for us in our season - and the next game is the most important. For us, it was vital we could not dwell on the disappointment for too long. The day after, of course, it's difficult because of not qualifying, but we were back in and working."

It's hard to see this side producing the type of display we witnessed in the spring, but there's little doubt that the occasion can lift Liverpool in a manner we've seen in seasons past. One-off rises in form or production haven't been the problem over the course of the last decade, as it's been the consistency week-in, week-out that they've lacked. During the second half of last season they had it in spades, with their win in March part of an incredible run that nearly saw them emerge as champions.

Now they go to Old Trafford very much a side in need of inspiration, even if it comes as a one-off. If they can get a result here, it allows for some reprieve before heading to Bournemouth midweek and back to Anfield to host Arsenal next weekend.

Maybe the season starts now?