Markovic is improving – Rodgers


Published: Saturday 20th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Liverpool winger Lazar Markovic looks like he is starting to finally settle into English football after manager Brendan Rodgers urged him to be more aggressive.

That advice backfired when he was sent off just 15 minutes after coming on as a substitute in the club’s Champions League exit against Basle last week after flailing an arm into an opponent’s face.

However, employed on the left-hand side of a midfield four, requiring more defensive effort than he is used to, against Bournemouth on Wednesday the 20-year-old impressed and scored his first goal for the club.

“I thought it was a great finish. I thought he was excellent in a role where we asked different tactical elements from him,” said Rodgers.

“His energy and quality was good and he was a real threat for us.”

Rodgers added on “It has taken him a bit of time to get going and we have talked to him about being more aggressive in his game.

“In the 15 minutes before he got sent off against Basle – and it was disappointing that he was sent off – because he started really well. That’s the Markovic that we know.

“Playing in that role (against Bournemouth) he was outstanding; he was defensively good and pressed the ball at almost all of the right times, so tactically he was very good.

“And with the ball his speed and movement was excellent. He has got good quality and is a good footballer. It is pleasing. At 20 years of age, he looks like he is improving all the time.”

Markovic cost Liverpool £20million when he moved from Benfica as one of Europe’s brightest talents but he has so far failed to show many glimpses of his potential.

The Serbia international will hope he did enough in midweek to retain a place to face Arsenal at home on Sunday.

Liverpool need a good performance against the in-form Gunners, who have scored four goals in their last two matches in the Premier League and Europe.

They have scored just seven goals in eight matches at Anfield in the league this season, goals which have produced just 12 points at home, and they are five points adrift of sixth-placed Arsenal before this weekend’s matches.

Having lost to Manchester United last weekend to fall 10 points behind their arch-rivals they can ill-afford another defeat to a top-four contender.

Asked what a victory over Arsenal would do for their season, never mind their confidence, Rodgers added: “Internally, it will continue our spirit and our focus.

“For us it will good for confidence. But it will be a difficult game.

“They are a top side with outstanding players. They did okay at home last week winning 4-1 against Newcastle and they played really well.

“They have outstanding players but we will look to focus on ourselves.”

Defender Dejan Lovren faces a late test to see whether he has recovered from the groin problem which forced him off against Bournemouth but it seems likely Mamadou Sakho could deputise in a newly-formed back three, which would be his first start in the league since mid-September.

Arsene Wenger has hailed the talents of Raheem Sterling ahead of Sunday’s clash.

Sterling was influential as Wenger’s Arsenal side lost 5-1 at Anfield in February, scoring twice as the Gunners conceded four times in the opening 20 minutes and their title challenge unravelled.

With Luis Suarez now at Barcelona and Daniel Sturridge out through injury, Liverpool have become increasingly reliant on Sterling and Wenger has high regard for the 20-year-old England forward.

“I rate him highly, Sterling,” Wenger said.

“Everybody speaks about Suarez last year, but let’s not forget Sturridge and Sterling are very, very influential.

“I think he is one of the great players in England.”

Wenger declined to offer a reason why Liverpool, runners-up in the Premier League last term, are toiling so much this season.

“It’s difficult for me to assess our direct opponent, two or three days before,” he said.

“I expect to play against a very good team. This season they have a heavy schedule, like we have, playing Champions League games, Premier League games and it’s very demanding.”

He is relishing returning to Anfield for the first time since February’s humbling experience.

“I have a lot of respect for the crowd at Liverpool, because they stand behind their team,” Wenger added.

“There’s a special atmosphere. I remember one day we were leading 5-1 at Liverpool and they were chanting ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

“It’s one of the few grounds in the world where you can see that.

“There is a special combination of knowledge of the game at Liverpool and of support of their team. I have a huge respect for that.”

Published: Saturday 20th December 2014 by The News Editor

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