Johnny Phillips
Football Commentator & Columnist

Martin Skrtel: Liverpool will fight every step of the way for top four place

Luis Suarez is a nightmare to mark - even in training!

Rodgers delight at attacking display

Six years ago this week Martin Skrtel walked into Anfield for the first time as a Liverpool player.

Signed by Rafa Benitez, he soon established himself as a solid performer with a superb display in a win over derby rivals Everton just a couple of months later, one of the highlights of his early career on Merseyside.

And with the passing of each season he has proved his combative worth. Now playing under his fourth manager here, he's enjoying his football as much as ever.

"I'm proud that I've been a Liverpool player for such a long time," he said. "I've enjoyed it very much and I just want to keep working hard for the club. I just hope we can get some success this season."

Competitive

We are sitting down at the club's indoor pitch at Melwood, after an early finish to training on Thursday ahead of the live Saturday Night Football clash with Aston Villa.

It's a critical juncture in the season. Liverpool showed they are likely to be stayers in the race for the Champions League places and possibly the title with that dramatic 5-3 win over Stoke City, a game which saw Daniel Sturridge return to the side after a lengthy absence.

"He's a great player," Skrtel added. "The co-operation between him and Luis Suarez is very good and it was nice to see him back on the pitch. We just hope he can stay fit for the rest of the season.

"Everything is working well, even when Daniel was injured there were other players on the pitch who could replace him but obviously now he's fit we can hopefully score a lot more goals."

It is Suarez's goals that have captured most of the Premier League headlines, and his team-mates have probably been asked once too often to eulogise about his talents. Skrtel allowed himself a knowing smile when I sought his own thoughts on the Uruguayan.

"It's great news that Luis signed a new contract and I hope he'll be at Liverpool for a long, long time."

Martin Skrtel

"Luis shows it every day in training," he explained. "He's very competitive and wants to win every single game. He wants to show he's the best in training.

"For me, as a defender, I'm just happy he's on our team and I don't have to mark him because I see in training how difficult that is. It's great news that he signed a new contract and I hope he'll be at Liverpool for a long, long time."

Adapted

Skrtel's own game has had to adapt to the changes under Brendan Rodgers, especially this season when the system has changed so often. But if he had a preferred formation, he wasn't letting on.

"Sometimes we play three at the back, other times it's four," he said. "For me as a centre back there's not a massive difference between playing three or four as most of the time I'm in the centre of the pitch.

"I think we've adapted well and are able to change from system to system. That's been good for us because sometimes during the game you need to change the system."

For the most part, this team has coped well when questions have been asked of them this season.

The squad is significantly thinner than that of others around them in the top four, but the lack of midweek European football has helped them steer clear of injury, for the most part.

Now they have a chance to convert a good start into a really successful season.

"We've been together as a group for a long period," Skrtel added. "The manager came in last season when it was more about getting used to each other, but this season from very early on we have worked very hard to fight for the top four."

You can see our extended interview with Martin Skrtel on Soccer Saturday this weekend.