Brendan Rodgers outlined his belief and confidence Liverpool will mount a strong tilt for a return to UEFA Champions League soccer in 2013-14.
The Reds boss believes he has seen enough in preseason so far to suggest his side are in an improved position to challenge for a top-four berth — particularly with the additions of Kolo Toure, Simon Mignolet, Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto so far this summer.
Speaking at a packed news conference in Jakarta, Rodgers said: “The Champions League is a competition we’re fighting to get in.
“The great name of Liverpool as a club and the history of the club dictate that we should be in that competition. There’s no other measure for us.
“The challenge is very, very difficult because of the competitors now in England. We have to continue to fight — and I believe we can put up a great fight this year.
“It was very difficult for us last season with a new infrastructure and a new way of working and playing, but I believe this season we can put up a great fight. Let’s hope we can get back to where the club belongs.”
Rodgers celebrated a year in charge of Liverpool in June and feels the stability implemented over the past 12 months will stand the Reds in good stead in their quest for success.
“I’ve looked at how we’ve started our preseason and that start base and foundation is already in place,” the manager added. “Last year at the club, it was really about putting together the infrastructure of the club again, looking to rebuild and put lots of facets in place that will really help us going forward. From what I have seen this summer so far, even in preseason, I really believe there is a real stability there.
“In England, it has shown over the years that the teams that have went on and done well have had that stability. I’m very sure we can really challenge this year and the stability is important for that.”
“We really want to have a greater fight for the Champions League spots right from the very first whistle. That’s our prime aim and we would like to do well in the cup competitions. Our squad was a little bit thin last year, but this year we’re going into those [cup competitions] as well as the league and look to make the steps we want to make.
“The four new players have settled in really well and all looked very, very good in their first two weeks of training. I’m really happy with them.”
Liverpool were afforded an incredible welcome upon touching down in Jakarta on Wednesday.
It’s the Reds’ first ever visit to the country and the incredible reception the club have received has not gone unnoticed.
“It has been incredible — it has been so welcoming of us,” Rodgers said. “It was very humbling at the airport yesterday. When we arrived on the tarmac, we thought there were quite a few people there watching us from when we landed — but when we got out into the road, the reception we got was incredible.
“We were talking about it this morning amongst the players. It really makes you aware and understand the status in which the club is held throughout the world.
“As the manager of this football club, it gives me great pride and honour to come here as the manager of the first Liverpool team ever to visit Indonesia. It’s an incredible country and we’re really looking forward to being here for the next few days.”
Liverpool will face an Indonesia XI on Saturday as preparations for 2013-14 continue. They’ll then take in Australia and Thailand before returning to Merseyside.
An Indonesia Dream Team were beaten 7-0 by Arsenal on Sunday, but Rodgers believes his side are in for a tough test at the Gelora Bung Karno National Stadium.
“The stadium is fine,” he said. “The pitch a little bit dry, but it’s nice and big and we can understand how dry it is with the weather here. We’re really looking forward to playing in the stadium and bringing our team to the great supporters here.
“There are a number of players who will be a threat to us. I know there are a number of players coming back who have been with the U-23 squad, which will make them stronger, so we’ll be fully aware. It’s still part of our physical preparation and we know the game will be a huge test for us. The Indonesian XI have a number of good players and we’ll have to contain them.
“If you look at the game against Arsenal, tactically the team were very good. They played in a 4-4-2 diamond, which can be complicated for the opponent, and the team were technically strong. Tactically they played the game very well and it was very close until the 70th minute — it was 2-0.”
Meanwhile, local journalists were eager to quiz the boss on potential transfer targets for the remainder of the summer — specifically whether former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso was in his thinking, to which Rodgers gave a generalized response.
“There have been probably 100 players linked with Liverpool, and Xabi Alonso has been one of them,” he said.
“I’ve read many names from many different countries, and there have been many outstanding players. Xabi was someone who was an incredible player for the club, a wonderful role model for Liverpool.
“He’s in a different moment in his career at Real Madrid and has been one of many players linked with the football club.”
One reporter quizzed the manager on whether he would ever consider signing an Indonesian player.
“At Liverpool Football Club we just want good players and it doesn’t matter what country they’re from — if it’s an Asian player, a South American player or a European player, it doesn’t really matter,” Rodgers replied. “Liverpool is a worldwide institution and so we’ll always attract players from around the world, but we only want good players. That’s something we’ll always be looking for at the club.”