Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists the fans deserve to be able to dream of what may come with the club top of the table at Christmas, but he is confident there will be no complacency within the squad.
The Reds were top on 25 December for the first time since 2008 – when they became the last side not to win the title from that position. Since then the 19-times champions have been in gradual decline, and even at this stage of last season Liverpool had not been in the top half of the table at any time.
The current campaign has seen them drop out of the top six for only two days and they have spent four separate spells at the top of the table and for that reason Rodgers can understand why supporters are in jubilant mood. It is not a feeling which is felt within their Melwood training base, however.
“You don’t get the rewards at Christmas. It is a nostalgic time and people always want to know where the team is at around Christmas Day,” he said. “We want to be there but we want to be there at the end of the season and for that there is a lot of hard work ahead. It is brilliant for supporters, I am not going to deny them a dream – it is nice for us all to dream.
“It has been a hard period in this club for four or five years and this (being top) was probably a distant thought for them. They have to enjoy it but for me as a manager my concentration has always been and always will be on the next game.
“That has served us well and seen us grow so I won’t change that. Strategically we have to keep pushing the club forward. We can’t be complacent and we won’t be because we haven’t done anything yet. We are top at Christmas, which is great, but we need to continue that run in the second half of the season.”
Today’s game at Manchester City will mark the halfway point of the campaign and, irrespective of the result at the Etihad Stadium, Liverpool will still be considered title challengers. It is not a role many of the players will be familiar with but Rodgers does not believe that makes a difference yet.
“Of course there are teams who will have much more experience than ourselves at winning titles but you only get that experience by doing it and focusing on the job,” added the Reds boss. “If we can continue with that over the course of the next ten games we will assess it for the final run in.
“You need to get that experience from somewhere and you only do that by going on and winning games. Since January we have shown we can consistently perform and win games on a regular basis and we have shown we are a very attack-minded team – we have the most goals of a Premier League team in this calendar year.”
This will be a testing time for Liverpool as injuries are starting to bite and it may be a while before he has a full-strength squad to choose from.
“Our squad is very thin at the moment. We have 17 players at the moment, which is unfortunate at this very busy period,” added Rodgers. “None of the guys [Steven Gerrard, Jose Enrique and Daniel Sturridge] who have been out have returned and there is still the timeline which was set for them.” Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, whose side beat Arsenal 6-3 in their most recent home match, expects a fierce examination of his troops against the resurgent Reds, who won 5-0 at Tottenham in their most recent away game.
“Very difficult,” Pellegrini said. “Liverpool is a very good team and Suarez is in a very good moment. But I think this Premier League, we are just finishing the first half, in two more games. And this Premier League will not just be Liverpool and Manchester City. Five or six teams will fight until the end.”