BRENDAN Rodgers insists there is no extra pressure on Premier League title favourites Liverpool and that shock results for Manchester City and Everton are a warning sign.
Last weekend’s 3-2 win over City made it ten league victories in a row for the Reds and left them two points clear of Chelsea at the top of the table.
It also left City playing catch-up, and a win over Norwich on Sunday would move Liverpool nine points clear of Manuel Pellegrini’s side having played two games more.
City suffered a further setback on Wednesday when they were held to a draw at home by bottom side Sunderland, while Everton’s Champions League hopes were dealt a blow with defeat against Crystal Palace.
Liverpool’s match against Chelsea at Anfield in ten days’ time could well prove to be the title decider, but it is Rodgers’ side that has the momentum.
The manager, though, was keen to project the message that nothing inside the club has changed.
Rodgers said: “We’ll deal with it the same as we have from the very first game of the season. There’s no added pressure than what we had then.
“We look to win the game at the weekend. We’re still in check with reality in terms of where we’re at.
“We’ve made great progress this season and our objective to qualify for the Champions League was always going to be a very difficult one because of the competitive nature of the league. But we’re still on course for that, and if we can get a win at the weekend then that would rubber stamp that for us. Nothing falls into place, you have to make it happen.”
Meanwhile, Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis has revealed Sir Alex Ferguson was a key influence in his decision to take on the job at a time when he had considerable doubts about it himself.
When Pulis was confirmed on 23 November as the successor to Ian Holloway, things were not looking promising for Palace, who were bottom of the Barclays Premier League with just four points from their opening 11 games of the campaign.
Now, with four fixtures remaining, their survival appears secure after Wednesday’s 3-2 win at Everton took them to 11th place and 40 points, ten clear of the relegation zone.
Asked if he had had doubts about becoming Palace boss, Pulis said after the Goodison Park triumph: “Yes – it was difficult. I spoke to Steve [Parish, the Palace co-chairman] about four or five times. I met him the one time and I didn’t feel as though it was right. Then Steve wanted to have a chat again. He came down to Bournemouth and we had a good chat about it, and he convinced me it was a challenge.
“Looking at it, everyone I had spoken to had said it was a difficult one. Sir Alex Ferguson and Peter Coates, my old chairman [at Stoke], were the only two who said to take it. And they were two good judges. The rest were very negative towards it.”
There has been talk of Pulis being a candidate for Premier League manager of the season, and asked about that, Palace defender Scott Dann said: “For me, it is a no-brainer.
“Obviously there are other managers out there – the likes of [Liverpool manager] Brendan Rodgers and [Everton boss] Roberto Martinez – who have done a great job fighting at the top.
“But I think anyone who rules out the job he has done at Crystal Palace would be silly.”
While Palace’s momentum continued on Wednesday, Everton saw their own top-flight winning streak come to an end after seven successive victories.
The Champions League-chasing Merseysiders had been looking to make the most of the opportunity to leapfrog Arsenal back into the top four, but instead remain fifth, a point behind the Gunners, with both clubs having four more games to go.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez – who is still feeling encouraged about his side’s top-four chances – said midfielder James McCarthy only featured as a substitute in Wednesday’s contest due to a “muscular problem”.
Martinez said: “James has been carrying some sort of muscular problem since Saturday and we didn’t think he was going to make the squad.
“It would have been a big risk once he made it to play 90 minutes.
“I’m pleased he played a part because that’s going to prepare him for Sunday, and he did make a big difference.”