Brendan Rodgers shrugs off pressure ahead of City clash

‘We will unleash the supporters this weekend,’ says Liverpool manager

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers shrugged off the pressure of hunting down the club's first league title in 24 years ahead of Sunday's crucial clash with Manchester City.

Liverpool face a decisive test of their credentials when they welcome City to Anfield in a match that could decide the destination of the Premier League trophy, but Rodgers said on Friday he is not losing any sleep.

His league leaders can increase their advantage over their rivals in third to seven points, albeit with City having two games in hand, and that is enough to leave him feeling excited, rather than under the cosh.

“People talk about pressure but for us it’s excitement,” Rodgers, who was named Premier League Manager of the Month for March on Friday, told a news conference.

“I’m sleeping well. This is what we work for as coaches and managers. It gives me great joy to see how the players have embraced the ideas. It’s vitally important we stay calm against City. We showed that at West Ham last weekend.

“The beauty for us is this game is at Anfield. It’s a special place.

The Northerhn Irishman added: “We will unleash the supporters this weekend yet again on the opponent. Anfield is a special place to play football and a difficult place for teams to come and play.

“I sense a real nostalgia about the place, the feel of the old Liverpool, and we will always respect that and it is important it drives us forward in the future.”

Liverpool hold their Premier League destiny in their own hands and know that five consecutive wins from their remaining matches will be enough to land a first top-flight crown since 1990.

Last Sunday's 2-1 win over West Ham was Liverpool's ninth on the spin and moved them to 74 points from 33 games. That is two more than second-place Chelsea who are also still to visit Anfield in the run-in, while matches against Norwich City, Crystal Palace and Newcastle United make up their remaining fixtures.

To beat City they will have to overturn a poor recent run against the Manchester club, having lost twice and drawn three times in their last five league meetings. City’s only league defeat in their last 20 games came against Chelsea two months ago, but Sunday’s hosts will be buoyed by their home record against the top clubs having won all four matches against teams in the top seven at Anfield.

Contrasting methods have made Liverpool and Manchester City title contenders but Reds boss Brendan Rodgers resolutely believes his preferred way of doing things is making the club better for the long term.

“Both clubs work on different models, we are on different roads in terms of how we want to achieve success,” he said. “We are a club who have an identity and a philosophy of how we want to work and that is built through the club and we will hopefully cultivate and grow it over the years to come.

“However this season finishes it will be a great victory for the model we have employed here of player development. I won’t disrespect what (City) have done because they had a lot of new money come into the club in order to gain success.

"They have invested that money wisely in a lot of top players and that has won them the league, the FA Cup and the league cup, so I am sure their supporters won't be complaining. Liverpool as a club is very much a development club — development for players and for people and it is a model we are happy with and will give us sustainable success over a long period.

“We are looking to build and create something here which gives the young players at the club hope they can pull on the great shirt of Liverpool.”

Liverpool welcome back centre back Daniel Agger into their squad after he sat out the win over West Ham through injury. "Only (left back) Jose Enrique is out. We have 20 players fit and raring to go," Rodgers added.

The club will begin a week of remembrance on on Sunday, around the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 fans died.

“It gives us great commitment and motivation but we will get chance to commemorate Hillsborough next week (at the annual memorial service),” added Rodgers.

“We carry it every day of our lives here: manager, players, supporters. The victims and the families are with us every day and that is why we work hard to ensure they can have some comfort from seeing their club move forward. This weekend will be huge for that.”