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 By Mike Whalley

Mignolet: Defence can derail UCL hopes

Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet says the Reds must tighten up in defence as they bid to maintain their grip on a Champions League position.

Podcast: No case for the defence 
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Brendan Rodgers’ side are the Premier League’s leading scorers with 70 goals, but are looking alarmingly fragile at the back. They have conceded 35 goals so far this term, more than any other side in the top half of the table apart from Newcastle.

Sunday’s 4-3 victory over Swansea at Anfield moved Liverpool six points clear in fourth place, and kept them on course to reach the Champions League for the first time since 2009.

But a thrilling attacking display, in which the in-form Daniel Sturridge scored for the eighth league game in a row, was almost compromised by a catalogue of defensive errors that left the Reds relieved to claim the victory.

Vice-captain Daniel Agger’s future is coming under increasing scrutiny after a poor display on Sunday led to him being substituted after 63 minutes -- but fellow centre-backs Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel have also been prone to errors this season.

Mignolet, an ever-present in the league for Liverpool since his nine million pound move from Sunderland last summer, has kept just four clean sheets in his last 24 appearances, and he feels that cutting out the sort of basic mistakes made against Swansea will be vital to ensuring a promising season does not go to waste.

"It wasn’t easy, but we scored four goals and it was a very important win for us," Mignolet told the Liverpool Echo. "The objective going into every game is to win and we did that.

"Obviously, it’s easier to do that if you are not conceding goals and we know we need to be tighter and not concede so many."

Liverpool go into Saturday’s league game at Southampton only four points behind leaders Chelsea, but Mignolet insists there is no talk of a title bid in the Anfield dressing room.

"We are in a good position at the moment but with 11 games to go there are still a lot of things that can happen," he added.

"We just need to try to get as much as we can out of all the games we have left.

"We need to stay calm and just focus on our next game at Southampton."

Liverpool, despite their defensive frailties, have collected 20 points from a possible 24 after starting 2014 with an eight-match unbeaten league run.

And with matches against fellow European hopefuls Manchester United and Tottenham to come before the end of March, Mignolet is aware of the benefits of maintaining that good league form.

The Belgium international said: "Hopefully we can keep this run in the league going. We’re happy with where we are but there’s still a long way to go.

"The gaffer gives everyone confidence. When you step on to the pitch you know that he’s behind you and supporting you.

"Everyone is trying to do their job the best they can and we need to keep doing that until the end of the season."

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