Rodgers wants Reds to pile pressure on Chelsea
LIVERPOOL - Agence France-Presse
Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge celebrates scoring a goal with Luis Suarez (L) against Cardiff City during their English Premier League soccer match at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, March 22, 2014. REUTERS PhotoLiverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is hoping his team can capitalise on a run of home matches as they attempt to boost their title hopes against Sunderland at Anfield on Wednesday.
The Reds have not had a home game since February 23 but have won all three matches since, winning 3-0 at Southampton, beating Manchester United by the same scoreline at Old Trafford and securing a 6-3 victory at Cardiff at the weekend.
Rodgers' side, unbeaten in the league since the turn of the year with 29 points from a possible 33, trail leaders Chelsea by four points and are in contention for a first league championship since 1990.
Five of their remaining eight matches are at home and a win over Sunderland in their game in hand on Chelsea would close the gap to just one point.
After the visit of Sunderland, they entertain Tottenham at the weekend before travelling to West Ham and hosting Manchester City.
Following a trip to Norwich they have a home against Chelsea and then head to Crystal Palace before finishing the season against Newcastle at Anfield.
Rodgers is optimistic that home advantage will count and he said: "We're really looking forward to playing at Anfield now on Wednesday night. It's a big game for us.
"Hopefully the supporters can really get behind the team well before kick-off, get the atmosphere revved up for the game and we'll look to continue on this great run.
"As you can see, we believe we can perform well and get results. Cardiff was the fourth away game on the spin that we've won.
"We ended up with six goals against Cardiff - arguably we could have had one or two more. But it was a wonderful demonstration of our mentality, resilience and our strength mentally. It was another demonstration of our offensive power.
"It may or may not be this year but there's no doubt we're on the right road to winning a title here.
"We are far from being perfect. We are nowhere near the finished article but we are learning and improving.
"At the top it's very tight. There are eight games to go but we are only looking at Sunderland." Spanish left-back Jose Enrique is Liverpool's only enforced absentee as he continues to struggle with a long-term knee problem.
The trip to Anfield is just the start of a testing series of away fixtures for third bottom Sunderland as they attempt to retain their Premier League status.
Between now and the end of the season, they are also scheduled to travel to Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United.
It is conceivable they will not pick up a single point from those games against leading teams who will not be coasting towards the finishing line.
But midfielder Liam Bridcutt is one player who is relishing the challenge after spending most of his career in the Championship with Brighton.
Bridcutt is looking forward to tackling Liverpool and he said: "No, it's not daunting. We all know they are a top team, but we also know we can do well if we are on our game." Bridcutt's optimism is admirable when the reality is that Sunderland's squad is so stretched that manager Gus Poyet has recalled Connor Wickham for his loan at Leeds.
Wickham has failed to score in five games for Leeds in the Championship, but is likely to start at Anfield because Poyet is short of options among his strikers.
Steven Fletcher is injured and Fabio Borini is ineligible to play against his parent club, while Ignacio Scocco is struggling to adapt to the pace of the Premier League and Jozy Altidore is bereft of form and confidence after 19 games without a goal.