VIDEO: Checking up on Rodgers Champions League Checklist
Video courtesy of The Redmen TV
After finishing last season in 7th place, 28 points off of Champions Manchester United and 12 points off 4th place Arsenal, qualifying for the Champions League at the end of the following season looked like a pipe dream. In a press conference from over a year ago, Reds boss Brendan Rodgers outlined what he believed would be the key to Liverpool making a return to Europe’s elite club competition – an outline that has so far worked to a tee.
With ten matches left this season, the Reds are in 2nd place – equal on points with Arsenal and 14-points better off than 7th placed Manchester United – and are on course to make a return to the lucrative fields of Europe’s finest.
Forty goals for Luis Suarez was a seemingly tongue in cheek suggestion, but the Uruguayan potted his 24th goal in a mere 23 appearances as the Reds downed Southampton 3-0 on Saturday as he keeps his outstanding run of form going. The 27-year old is not only the top scorer in the Premier League, but in Europe as well and has been a huge factor in the Reds relentless march on the top four.
Set-pieces were also a concern for Rodgers and increasing our output from them was something that he deemed vital. Compared to last season at the same stage, the Reds have found the net 23 times from dead ball situations – a staggering increase of 11 goals so far. The Uruguayan has been one of the catalysts behind that increase, scoring a number of spectacular free kicks this season with efforts against Everton and Norwich worthy of any Premier League highlight reel.
Although a number of high profile failures marred Liverpool’s summer recruitment drive, the additions of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho – along with the rise of prominence of youngster Raheem Sterling – has surrounded Suarez with players who can not only score, but create as well; another bullet point on the Northern Irishman’s checklist. We saw bids for Atletico Madrid goal machine Diego Costa, former Shakhtar Donetsk attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and FC Basel winger Mohamed Salah fall by the way side as they either chose to make moves to teams already playing in the Champions League or stay with their current club rather than make the switch to the Anfield outfit.
A larger squad will be required if Europe comes calling next season and the prospect of gracing some of the continent’s most hallowed grounds has a massive appeal to players and give them extra motivation to make the move to Merseyside. Couple that with a positive financial output, and the Reds look to be on the right track – knocking off points on the checklist and climbing back on their perch.
Now, it’s time for Brendan to draw up another list – this time, he can ignore scoring goals and focus on keeping them out…