at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Liverpool, England – Brendan Rodgers says Liverpool now expect to beat the Premier League's big guns as they prepare to face leaders Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday.
Rodgers' team may have only beaten the Gunners once in their last seven meetings at Anfield and once in their last 12 games home and away, but the Reds boss believes his side have the confidence to take on any side, a belief which was sorely missing when he arrived at the club in 2012.
“I think we are a team that, because of how we play and work, we get the most out of our opponents because they have to be on top of their game to play us,” Rodgers said.
“We are confident going into every game and the big change for us now is to expect to win these games now.
“When I first came in the pressure to win was difficult for us. We were maybe never that confident to consistently do it.
“Now because of the level and consistency of our work, we actually go into every game expecting to win and none more so than at Anfield. That belief and expectancy can be seen in our results.
“We always respect every opponent that we play and none more than the league leaders, but we will come into the game looking to perform and hopefully win.”
Rodgers revealed that defensive duo Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson will not be fit to face the Gunners with the game coming just a few days early for them as they recover from injury.
But one player who definitely will feature is Luis Suarez, the striker Arsenal tried to lure to the Emirates Stadium before the start of this season.
Suarez has been in prolific form in front of goal this season with 23 goals already to his name but he has failed to net against any of last season's top four sides – Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea.
“I think he has made an impact,” said Rodgers. “He may not have scored but certainly did so in the games last season when I was here. He makes a great contribution to the team.
“The onus isn't always on Luis to score the goals – it's on the rest of the team.
“As long as he works hard and does his best, which he does every game, I'll have no complaints about that.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was adamant he had no regrets about his club's bid of £40,000,001 for Suarez, which triggered an angry response from Liverpool and ultimately failed to land the Uruguayan.
“No,” he said. “You sometimes have regrets when a player played for you, and scores goals or does well somewhere else. He was never our player, it is just a situation that did not come off and that is it.”
Arsenal will kick off at Anfield two points clear of both Manchester City and Chelsea and eight ahead of Liverpool, who are fourth.
The Gunners' success has been achieved mainly by using Olivier Giroud as a lone striker and Wenger made it clear Suarez's arrival would not have been at the Frenchman's expense.
“We never wanted to replace Giroud, we always had complete confidence in him,” Wenger said.
“I said at the beginning of the season that he always does better in the second year everywhere and he shows that again this season.”
Wenger backed his defenders to get the better of Liverpool's attacking players, who also include Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling.
“The key is for us to dominate the game and leave them as few balls as possible,” he said.
“At Liverpool the task might be a bit more difficult but the philosophy on our side has to be the same - to master the ball.
“Liverpool have a strong offensive force. So what you want on our side is a strong defensive performance.” – Sapa-AFP