Guiding Liverpool to top-four spot would be Rodgers' greatest achievement

Brendan Rodgers would be overdelivering again this season if he steered the Merseysiders to a Champions League place.

It would be Brendan Rodgers’ biggest achievement yet if he could guide Liverpool to a top-four Premier League finish this season.

The Luis Suarez-led, goal laden title assault of 2013-14 was more fun to watch. No doubt about that. Liverpool overdelivered last season in not only finishing second to a mighty fine Manchester City team of far greater resources but by producing the kind of liquid football not seen at Anfield since the 1987-88 campaign.

Yet, eking out a Champions League place from a team that lost Suarez to Barcelona and Daniel Sturridge to injury, and from a season that lay in ruins before Christmas would, in many ways, trump the magic of last year.

Rodgers has also had to deal with the difficulty of handling Steven Gerrard's decline and a clutch of new signings who either needed time to settle (Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana, Alberto Moreno) or were never likely to settle (Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren).

With the team struggling to get out of second gear, a second consecutive season of Champions League football appeared a pipedream.

Then came a post-Christmas turnaround built on something almost as valuable as a Suarez-led attack; a reliable defence.

Rodgers had taken the brave step of installing a three-man back line and reaped the dividends until Manchester United and Arsenal provided reminders in consecutive weekends that the teams with the highest wage bills tend to finish highest in the table.

With Liverpool seven points behind City, who also had the cushion of a game in hand, their dream of a top-four finished appeared dead and buried.

But City’s dramatic fall has given the Merseysiders an unexpected window of opportunity.

Liverpool did their bit by comfortably dispatching a wretched Newcastle on Monday night and are now four points adrift of City and in a position to put Manuel Pellgrini’s team under real pressure.

Rodgers deserves much credit.

With Sturridge still not fit or firing, and Balotelli, Lambert and Fabio Borini all below the required standard, Rodgers pulled another rabbit out of the hat by doing away with strikers altogether.

Philippe Coutinho delivered a majestic display in a false nine position against Newcastle, allowing Raheem Sterling to wreak havoc on the left flank.

Rodgers’ plan worked a treat. He is showing himself to be a tactically versatile manager who can find solutions to tricky problems.

Liverpool may not be annihilating opponents in the manner they were 12 months ago. But, against all bar A-list opponents, they are finding ways to get the job done. That, in itself, is a considerable achievement.

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