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Dejan Lovren takes a dive

The Toe Poke
 By Mike Whalley

Rodgers talks up Ilori, Sakho potential

Brendan Rodgers believes he has sorted out Liverpool’s central defence for the next ten years with the signings of Tiago Ilori and Mamadou Sakho.

Walsh: Liverpool look to end seven-year glitch at Swansea

Both players arrived at Anfield on transfer deadline day two weeks ago, with Ilori, 20, coming in from Sporting Lisbon for £7 million and Sakho, 23, from Paris Saint-Germain for around £18 million.

The two signings are aiming to win a place in the 18-man squad for Monday night’s Premier League trip to Swansea, as Liverpool seek to return to the top of the table.

Manager Rodgers is likely to give Ilori and Sakho time to bed in at the club before throwing them into his starting line-up, but believes they have a long-term future on Merseyside.

He told the Liverpool Daily Post: "I wanted to try to protect the present and the future of the club.

"Centre-halves are so hard to find. You look at some teams and they have ageing centre-halves because it is a struggle to get a really good one.

"We were fortunate in that two became available, one that we had been tracking for a year in Tiago Ilori, a young talent but who can be a big talent.

"He is 6' 3", super quick, power, can jump, and he just needs to adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League. He is one for the future, but he can be a really big talent.

"Sakho is 23 but he is an experienced player. He has senior international caps and looks an absolute monster in training. He is one who is ready for now and that is what we want.

"We had a chance to do that and protect the club for maybe the next ten years and that is what we have done."

With Kolo Toure arriving on a free transfer from Manchester City, Rodgers has signed three central defenders to plug the gap left by former vice-captain Jamie Carragher’s retirement in May.

That defensive strengthening has helped Liverpool keep clean sheets in all three of their Premier League games so far this season -- as they have won each match 1-0.

Toure -- who missed the most recent of those victories, over Manchester United on September 1, with a groin strain -- is in contention to return at the expense of Martin Skrtel.

Rodgers also has the option to go with a central back three as he seeks to cover for the absence of Glen Johnson with an ankle injury that will keep him out until mid-October. Andre Wisdom is a contender to step in for Johnson at right-back.

Speaking about the competition for places he has in central defence, Rodgers said: "It is a nice problem to have, I would rather have this problem than a lack of talent to look at. It just keeps everyone on their toes."

Daniel Sturridge is set to play, having made good progress in his recovery from the thigh injury that kept him out of England’s recent World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine.

Steven Gerrard, meanwhile, will captain Liverpool for the 400th time.

Liverpool have declined to comment on reports that Gerrard was threatened at the club’s training ground on Saturday.

An unnamed man was understood to have climbed the perimeter fence at Melwood to tell the midfielder he would "kill you and your kids".


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