Brendan Rodgers believes Liverpool can be a 'real force'
By Pete O'Rourke - Follow me: @skysportspeteo. Last Updated: October 5, 2012 6:34pm
Brendan Rodgers: Believes Liverpool can challenge for the top four if they cut out their defensive mistakes
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers believes his team can be a "real force" if they address their defensive problems, with the Northern Irishman's sights still firmly set on a top-four Premier League finish.
Rodgers was left lamenting his players' concentration levels and accused them of laziness after their 3-2 Europa League defeat to Udinese at Anfield on Thursday night, in which the hosts took a deserved first-half lead only to concede three goals in 26 minutes after the break.
It was the latest setback in a mixed start to the season for the Reds which had just appeared to be gathering some momentum with three wins from the previous four games in all competitions.
Rodgers has no doubt his side can make great strides this term if they can improve at the back, but emphasised that he had been pleased with their attacking display against Udinese.
Reflecting on Thursday's match, Rodgers said: "We had been so dominant in the game and the players were outstanding, so I was just frustrated for them that we had let Udinese back in the game, and then ultimately come out of it with nothing.
"The players give everything and we are just working very hard to cut out the mistakes, because I think once we cut them out, we can be a real force as a team.
"The creativity in our team is improving every day and there is real excitement in the team going forward.
"If we can just cut out the mistakes that unfortunately we are getting punished for, then I believe we can do very well."
Liverpool are undergoing a transformation with Rodgers - appointed as successor to Kenny Dalglish over the summer - at the helm as they strive to improve on their disappointing recent run of top-flight finishes that has seen them come seventh, then sixth and last season eighth.
"If we can just cut out the mistakes that unfortunately we are getting punished for, then I believe we can do very well"
They are currently 14th in the table after six games, but Reds captain Steven Gerrard has been quoted as saying he thinks a top-four place is still a realistic goal for the campaign, and asked if that was something he echoed, Rodgers said: "Yes, absolutely - 100%.
"There is no doubt it is going to be very difficult for us, but that is our fight."
The manager, who was speaking at a press conference to preview Sunday's Premier League home clash with Stoke, added: "We have great quality here, the players are very much unified and there is a wonderful spirit in the group.
"Even though we are frustrated with last night's result, our performance in the league last time out (a 5-2 win at Norwich) was fantastic, so we will look to carry that into the weekend's game.
"There is still a very long season ahead of us, we are starting to get to grips with how we work as a team and I'm sure that will bring us good results."