Hodgson still seeking improvement

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Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson believes his improved side have still not reached their peak and wants consistent performances at a higher level to achieve their top-four ambition.

The Reds have comfortably swept aside strugglers West Ham and Aston Villa in successive home games and are now just seven points behind fourth placed Manchester City. Hodgson expects his players to, at the very least, maintain their current level but still wants an improvement - particularly away from home.

"My message to them is what you have got to be doing for the next 22 games - we need 22 more like the last three," he said.

"Less than that we will let ourselves down and if we can do a little bit more still, which I think we can, then I shall be happy.

"There aren't many teams in the league who have a very good away record. Home records seem to be the order of the day. The only way to put a poor record behind you is to get the results and maybe we need a bit of luck.

"At the moment we are near the top of a middle group but there are still five or six teams way above us - even Tottenham are six points above us.

"Six points doesn't sound a lot but in this league at the end of the season six points is going to separate an enormous amount of clubs so I still do think we have got an awful lot to do. I'm not trying to dampen enthusiasm or expectations, I'm just trying to be realistic."

Midfielder Lucas Leiva said the team were still aiming to regain their Champions League place but in order to do that they had to start winning at places like Newcastle, who they face on Saturday evening.

"It's difficult to say where we will be at the end of the season," said the Brazil international. "The ambition is to be in the top four and play in the Champions League next year. That is our first target.

"To get in the top four you have to play consistently as a team. If we can keep the level of the last few games then I think it will be great."

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