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Liverpool may find themselves languishing in the bottom half of the table nearly two months into the Premier League season, but Brendan Rodgers remains convinced a top four finish is within reach.
Despite a difficult start to the Premier League season and a disappointing result on Thursday night in the Europa League, manager Brendan Rodgers thinks Liverpool are on the right track and that a top four finish remains an achievable goal. Speaking with the press ahead of Sunday's match against Stoke at Anfield, Rodgers pointed to the side's unity and that he believes they have, on the whole, improved with every match and practice session as the reasons for his belief that a Champions League spot is still within reach.
"There's no doubt that it's going to be very difficult for us but that is our fight," said Rodgers. "We've got great quality here. The players are very much unified and there's a wonderful spirit in the group and even though we are frustrated with last night's result, the performance in the league last time out was fantastic."
"Some of the football last night was fantastic; the speed of our passing and our movement and creativity was great. So we'll look to carry that into the weekend's game, which we know will be difficult. There's still a very long season ahead of us and we're starting to get to grips with how we are going to work as a team and I'm sure that will bring us good results.
"We have won a number of Europa League games and we have come close in a number of Premier League games and should have won but we haven't. Physcologically there's nothing [to take from 'should have won'] for me, we've just got to get the results. We've got wonderful backing from the crowd and hopefully we can get some wins and perform well for the rest of the season."
As for Liverpool's opponents on the weekend, Rodgers has suggested that Tony Pulis deserves more credit than he often receives for managing Stoke into the Premier League and giving them what appears an assured future in the top flight.
"Stoke are one of those teams who are very hard to beat, and I've got great respect for Tony Pulis and the work that he has done there and how he prepares his players. There's no right or wrong way to play football and at the end of the day it's about getting results, but obviously they have a stigma about playing a slightly longer game."
We'll see if Rodgers is singing the same tune about Stoke and Pulis after they spend ninety minutes hacking their way across the Anfield pitch.