Cool Rodgers hoping for Merseyside Derby boost
LIVERPOOL v EVERTON
(Tonight, 7.45pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 102, StarHub TV Ch 227)
He walked into the press conference room at Melwood right on the dot at 2pm.
Wearing a big smile, he immediately went about sharing a joke with some of the journalists, eliciting a round of laughter.
There was no hint of Liverpool's troubled start to the season, just pure calmness exuding from manager Brendan Rodgers.
If there was pressure on the Northern Irishman, who has guided the Reds to only six points from five English Premier League games, he certainly wasn't showing it.
Not even with the Merseyside Derby looming today.
The results will come, he said, unflustered, when I asked him if he had expected this term to be this tough.
"It (the Premiership) has always been difficult but the results haven't gone as well as we would have liked," said Rodgers.
"Winning two games and losing three is not ideal.
"I suppose there are positives that we can still look at.
"If I look at the same sequence of games from last season, it's only a difference of one point less this season. And we did okay last season.
"But we know we need to be better and improve our performance. That's the key for us, refocusing on our performance.
"And then from that, we'll get results."
Their opponents at Anfield today are also desperate to kickstart their campaign.
Everton, so impressive last season when they finished fifth in the league, are currently 14th, one point and three places behind their city rivals.
But Rodgers remembers fondly the fillip his side received after beating the Toffees 4-0 in the same fixture last term.
Following that victory, the Reds went on to win 11 and draw one of their next 12 league matches, forming the basis of their unexpected title challenge.
Wearing a white, long-sleeved shirt, he said as he rested his elbows on the table: "We enter this game with a great opportunity to get a victory in a derby game at home. It can provide the platform for us as it did for us last season.
"That performance at Anfield was really special, because we were on a good run of form, and they were developing well under Roberto Martinez.
"We were exceptional in the game, every aspect, from counter-attack to finishing...
"...we just had a raft of new players, and then you lose the core of players who were important, that's obviously a factor. Then it becomes a little bit broken.
"That's how our game has looked for a big part of the season.
"Fortunately for me, I have a group of players who identify with that.
"We're all in this together. We need to get back and refocus on what it is that helped us win games for the last 18 months."
The departure of Uruguayan star Luis Suarez to Barcelona has clearly hurt the side immensely.
But the loss of Daniel Sturridge to injury has also left them struggling for rhythm up front.
The England striker is nearing a return, but Rodgers will leave it to a late fitness test to determine if he will play a part.
He said: "He certainly won't be match-fit because he hasn't played for a few weeks.
"He's a wonderful player, and a great reference to our team at the top of the field.
"He has pace, movement and quality.
"Against Spurs, he was exceptional, so we will be very happy to have him back, and I hope that it will be at this weekend.
"Even if he doesn't make it, he won't be far off from a return."
As he stood up to leave, he flashed those pearly whites once more.
He's taking everything in his stride.
But a victory against Everton will make his life a whole lot easier.
* This interview was brought to you by Carlsberg, one of the leading brewery groups in the world and the official beer of Barclays Premier League and an official partner of Liverpool FC.
TONIGHT'S OTHER GAMES (10pm)
- Chelsea v Aston Villa
- Crystal Palace v Leicester
- Hull City v Man City
- Man United v West Ham
- Southampton v QPR
- Sunderland v Swansea
- Arsenal v Tottenham (12.30am)
- West Brom v Burnley (11pm)
BY THE NUMBERS
Liverpool are unbeaten in the last 15 Merseyside Derbies at Anfield, winning seven and drawing eight. Their last defeat in this fixture came on this day 15 years ago, when Kevin Campbell scored to help Everton win 1-0.
Liverpool-Everton fixtures have seen more red cards than other games in EPL history.
Everton have the worst defensive record after five games, conceding 13 goals.
Daniel Sturridge has scored five goals in eight EPL appearances against Everton, including three in three games for Liverpool.
Southall: Attack the Reds
Former Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall has encouraged manager Roberto Martinez to stick to his philosophy against Liverpool tonight and not set up his team to defend.
The Toffees have won just one of their first five games, but Southall, 56, is adamant they must be less cautious if they are to record their first win at Anfield in 15 years.
He said: "We've had enough years of damage limitation at the club. I'd sooner us have a go and get beat 6-3 trying to win the game (like we did against Chelsea) than 'manage' a result when you go a goal down. Sometimes, you've just got to play yourself out of a difficult patch." - Wire Services.