Saturday's 1-0 victory over Stoke City was Liverpool's 20th match of the season in all competitions. It was only the club's third clean sheet. Much has been made so far over the failures of Liverpool's attack, but the problems in defence have been at least as big a problem in a difficult and disappointing campaign.
And while they didn't solve the attacking problems, the inclusion of Lucas in holding role and Kolo Toure in defence alongside Martin Skrtel made a major difference at the other end. Lucas and Toure had played in the same eleven twice before, against Ludogorets and on the road at Real Madrid, and both matches saw a more defensively sound Liverpool side.
"I'm very happy with their performances," Brendan Rodgers said following the match. "I think their contribution has been vital in the last two games. They are players who understand the league, players who are experiences, and players who are winners. Both have been outstanding, and they haven't played a great deal but they've come into the team and done very well."
Now the only question is whether they both have the stamina to start a third match in a row. If they are, one would imagine there should be little doubt as to their place in the lineup tomorrow against Leicester City. Either way, three points against the worst side in the league will be the necessary result if Liverpool are to build off Saturday's improved performance.
"The important thing, for me, is to arrive into the [second half] of the season either in there or not too far away, knowing that we'll be strong," said Rodgers today when asked if Liverpool's target remains a top four finish. "What has been pleasing in the last couple of games is the steel and determination has returned, and that gives you a platform to build from."
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