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Liverpool have returned to the top, says Brendan Rodgers

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Brendan Rodgers believes that Liverpool have come on leaps and bounds since their loss to West Ham United in September and his side have "returned to the top level."

The Reds started this season in terrible form and picked up just 14 points from their first ten games in the Premier League. On September 20, Liverpool travelled to the Boleyn Ground and were on the receiving end of a 3-1 thrashing to the Hammers, a scoreline that flattered the away side after performing well below par.

Back on the up

In recent months, Rodgers' outfit have begun to find their best form, with new signings such as Emre Can and Lazar Markovic gelling into the Liverpool style of play. The Merseyside club are now unbeaten in their last six top flight games.

The turn around from Liverpool has been magnificent and Rodgers feels that his side is in a different mindset than it was earlier this campaign.

"It's a different team and a different mentality," Rodgers said in his pre-match press conference before Liverpool play West Ham once more on Saturday.

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"I think at that point in time we were struggling. We were trying to play with the same flow and the same rhythm, but we just couldn't find it at that time. I think you see now the confidence in the team. I think we've returned to the top level.

"I think at that point in time we were struggling. We were trying to play with the same flow and the same rhythm, but we just couldn't find it at that time. I think you see now the confidence in the team. I think we've returned to the top level"

"Our only improvement that we need to make is that efficiency in the final third. How we arrive there and how we get there and the speed and how we create the chances is there. But we just need to be more efficient once we get in, and hopefully that will come."

Change Around

Liverpool's improvements have been outstanding and Rodgers deserves plenty of credit for masterminding them. At the start of the season, the Reds could barely string a pass together and they looked like a team who were doomed for a mid-table finish.

Philippe Coutinho failed to adjust to not having either Luis Suarez or Daniel Sturridge playing ahead of him and instead had to settled with Mario Balotelli operating as a lone striker. This had a negative effect on the Brazilian's game as Balotelli refused to create space or movement and it resulted in Coutinho giving the ball away too often.

Rodgers reverted to playing a 3-4-2-1 formation mid-way through December and that has done his side a world of the good. It involves playing two wing-backs, a position that is difficult to master for the best of footballers.

Markovic and Alberto Moreno started their Anfield careers poorly, but since being instated in their new roles, they have began to thrive and justify why Liverpool paid such large fees to acquire their services.

Rodgers also took Balotelli out of the firing line and replaced him with Raheem Sterling, who has done a much better job. Sterling's pace and movement creates plenty of space that Coutinho and Steven Gerrard can expose and it has seen more chances created.

Wary Of West Ham Threat

West Ham lie seventh in the Premier League going into Saturday's game, one point ahead of Liverpool. Sam Allardyce's side have also been in good form in recent weeks and in their last ten Premier League games they have lost just two games, to Chelsea and Arsenal respectably.

The Hammers have been one of this season's dark horses and Rodgers is not under-estimating the threat they bring to Anfield.

"I think West Ham have done great," the Northern Irishman said.

"I think Sam will believe that he still has every chance of getting into the top four.

"There will be plenty of people telling them that they can't do it and they can't make it and they won't have a strong enough squad, but you've just got to control all of that and really focus on yourself.

"There will be plenty of people telling them that they can't do it and they can't make it and they won't have a strong enough squad, but you've just got to control all of that and really focus on yourself"

"Sam's a very experienced manager. He's been a leading figure in the game for a long time. He understands the game very well and he will understand that his team have done fantastic this season. So it will be a tough game for us. There's no doubt about that."

Must Win

The aim for Rodgers come the end of the season is for Liverpool to finish in the top-four and qualify for the Champions League for a second successive year. Liverpool are rooted to eighth in the Premier League and trail fourth placed Manchester United by five points.

A win for Reds against West Ham on Saturday would see Merseyside club leapfrog their rivals and put them in a strong position to break into the top four this campaign. Rodgers recognises that it will be an up-hill task to close the five point deficit, however knows that the return of Sturridge will make the mission easier.

"The race for the top four is going to be exciting," the former Swansea City manager added.

"There are a number of teams that are going to be involved in it. We want to ensure that we arrive there and we have got to keep chipping away.

"So if we get a positive result on Saturday, then we're going to be in that position. With Daniel [Sturridge] coming back and getting back to fitness, then that will put us in a great position for the final run-in of the season."

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Liverpool

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