Liverpool – Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers hopes that his side's 4-0 victory over Everton will give them a psychological advantage in the race to qualify for the Champions League.
The Reds claimed an emphatic win over Everton at Anfield on Tuesday, their biggest over their city rivals since November 1982, thanks to a brace from Daniel Sturridge and a goal apiece for Luis Suarez and captain Steven Gerrard.
It helped Liverpool consolidate fourth place in the Premier League table, moving them four points clear of their city rivals and leaving Rodgers optimistic about their chances of a top-four finish.
“All wins are important, especially against your rivals,” Rodgers said.
“Psychologically it was a big win and one that gives confidence and belief to the squad. We just have to put the foot to the floor for the rest of the season.
“I think we've shown all season we are going to be in contention. We've shown a wonderful team spirit and we've had players missing, but we've set the team up so we're not reliant on one player.
“It's my first win in a derby, but I am happier for the players and the supporters. I'll be more delighted in May if we're in the top four.”
Rodgers also hailed the performance of England striker Sturridge after he took his tally for the season to 16 goals in all competitions.
Sturridge missed the chance to complete a hat-trick when he blazed a penalty over the crossbar and seemed to react angrily to being substituted with 18 minutes left, but Rodgers said that his reaction was borne out of frustration.
“Daniel's two finishes were sublime. He was a threat throughout the game and looks one every time he plays,” Rodgers said.
“We had to cut the risk of Everton scoring, so we brought him off. I felt the change balanced the team back up and there was no problem with Daniel. It was a brilliant performance from him.
“I think he was a little frustrated after the penalty and he apologised afterwards. If the manager decides to take you off, it's not because you are playing poorly. Sometimes it's tactical.”
Everton manager Roberto Martinez accepted that his team's performance was a disappointment, but disagreed with Rodgers over the significance of the result.
“It's a disappointment, but I never thought the result would give you a clear indication of what will happen by May,” Martinez said.
“I think what's important is we learn from this first-half performance. It's not good enough for our standards. There are a few reason why we performed like that, but we shouldn't be too negative with games ahead of us.
“We lost our concentration and didn't look solid. We focused on trying to score goals and left ourselves way too open. It became a test of character after the goals.
“The players who came back in didn't have that match intensity. We gave away the ball too easily, too cheaply and left ourselves exposed.
“We'd only lost two games this season before this defeat, which was uncharacteristic.”
Everton were also dealt a blow with an injury to on-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku, who left the pitch on a stretcher in the 25th minute.
Martinez admitted that the prognosis did not look good for the Belgium international, which may tempt him to bring in another attacking player before the transfer window closes on Friday.
“Romelu picked up a nasty injury,” Martinez said. “He's got his ankle in a cast, but it does not look good and looks like angle ligaments.
“The squad should be big enough when everyone is back from the knocks and niggles. We still have a bit of time to do something before the window shuts, but it's about trying to get everyone back from the injuries we have picked up.” – Sapa-AFP