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Rodgers reflects on Reds' progress

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Birmingham, United Kingdom – Brendan Rodgers believes Liverpool's trip to West Bromwich Albion is a significant landmark in the club's development since he took over at Anfield.

Rodgers' side were beaten 3-0 at the Hawthorns on the opening day of last season in the Liverpool manager's first league match in charge.

Seven of the 18-man squad that day are no longer at the club.

While Liverpool took until September 29 to register their first league win last season, they are much improved now and sit firmly in the thick of the race for a Champions League place.

Rodgers accepts that there is still plenty more progress to make but has been pleased with the changes he has implemented since August 2012.

“We've grown. If I look back at my time here over the last 18 months, I look back at the first game we played against West Brom,” Rodgers said.

“It's ironic that we play them this weekend. Where we were at then, we had some talented players but we were very much an individual group.

“Over the course of 18 months, we've implemented a method to our play. We have become a team.

“We're understanding the game much better in terms of how we want to work and how we want to play.

“The important trait in any successful team is character, and we have got that in bucketloads. It's something that makes me very happy, but we've still got a way to go.”

Liverpool are firm favourites to take the three points at the Hawthorns following their 4-0 Merseyside derby win over Everton in midweek.

But Rodgers maintains there is no prospect of taking Pepe Mel's side lightly.

“People probably expected Chelsea to win at home against West Ham, but they went there and put on a great defensive performance and got a draw,” he said.

“I think it will be like that throughout the remaining games.

“My focus is only on us and respecting every opponent that we play.

“West Brom, with a new manager, will be very keen to get a win, so we know it will be a very difficult match for us.

“We'll be ready and prepared. We're coming off the back of an outstanding performance and we'll look to carry that on into the weekend.”

Mel has held a summit with his side to resolve their defensive woes as they prepare to face a Liverpool attack whose return of 57

top-flight goals has only been bettered by leaders Manchester City.

The Baggies blew a two-goal lead to lose 4-3 at Aston Villa in Mel's second game in charge - leaving them with one win from their last 13 Premier League matches.

“I had a very good meeting with all of the players and they were able to speak their opinion,” he said.

“In my opinion, West Bromwich Albion have to play together, in attack and defence.

“My players will work hard to win the next game. It's impossible to score three goals away and not win. It was down to mistakes.

“In the first 20-25 minutes we played well and looked on our way to winning the match.

“Villa's first goal was an individual mistake, which is normal in football, so there are no problems.

“But the team was nervous and I don't know why.”

Former Liverpool striker Nicolas Anelka will be unavailable after he had seven stitches in his knee.

The Frenchman, who is fighting an Football Association disciplinary charge for his controversial 'quenelle' goal celebration against West Ham in December, is likely to be back for the crunch clash with Crystal Palace next weekend. – Sapa-AFP


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