Martin Skrtel admits added pressure after Liverpool signings

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Martin Skrtel admits that Liverpool's spending spree on centre-backs has forced him to raise his game.

Skrtel signed for the Reds in 2008 from Zenit St. Petersburg for £6.5 million and has made over 200 appearances at Anfield.

For the majority of his Liverpool career, the Slovakian battled with just Daniel Agger to line-up alongside Jamie Carragher in the heart of the defence.

However in the past two seasons, Brendan Rodgers spent a significant amount of money of buying central defenders including Mamadou Sakho, Dejan Lovren, Tiago Illori, as well as Kolo Toure on a free transfer from Manchester City.

A position to start in the Reds' back-line has become competitive - especially with midfielder Emre Can proving his versatility and performing well there.

But Skrtel admits that the new recruits have added fire to his belly and required him to improve.

“I think that it’s only a good thing when new players come into the team,” Skrtel told the Liverpool Echo.

“It makes you feel the pressure to make you work even harder, it pushes you to work very hard and do your best in every single session.

“That is the key for every single player, not only the defenders.”

Top Season

Skrtel is currently enjoying his most successful season at the Merseyside club in terms of performance level.

The 30-year-old has been inspirational at the back throughout the campaign, winning a number of fantastic headers and tackles.

When Carragher retired at the end of the 2012/13 season, it left Liverpool without a leader at the back.

It was a huge blow the Reds, however, this season Skrtel has stepped up to the now Sky Sports pundit's role and helped influence a lot of structure in Rodgers' team.

Skrtel has been excellent to watch when in a number of key battles with the Premier League's top strikers.

He and Diego Costa have already met three times this season and every game has been an intriguing encounter with the pair constantly on the fight for the ball.

He will too have a fantastic duel with Christian Benteke this Sunday when Liverpool meet Aston Villa in the semi-final of the FA Cup.

Benteke has been in frightening form since Tim Sherwood took over at Villa Park and the Belgian has netted six goals in his last eight games.

Change Of Formation

In the early stages of the season, Skrtel operated as a conventional centre-back in a back-four.

However, the 4-3-3 system was not working for Liverpool and they took just 14 points from their opening ten top-flight games.

A change was made by Rodgers for his side to revert to playing three centre-backs, a system that Skrtel has little experience of playing.

And the defender has praised his manager for the change in tactics.

“The manager changed the formation and we started playing well but for me as a defender it is not a big difference if you are playing in a three or the four,” he added.

“The first thing for you is defending and trying to protect your goal, and trying to stop them from scoring goals.

“We have seen the system with the three at the back was working for us and we will see for the future if we stick with it or change again.”

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