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Jan 28, 2014

Liverpool 'should be above Everton'

Brendan Rodgers believes Liverpool should be finishing above neighbours Everton on a regular basis because they are the bigger club.

• Cox: Gareth Barry, Steven Gerrard a study in contrasts
• 50-50 Challenge: Liverpool vs. Everton
• Bennett: Nerves prevalent ahead of the Merseyside derby

The two Merseyside neighbours go head-to-head in the Premier League at Anfield on Tuesday night with little to separate them.

Liverpool lie in fourth, just one point and two places above Everton, with both sides in serious contention to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

But even though they have operated on the smaller budget, Everton have finished above their local rivals in each of the last two seasons.

Liverpool have held the higher league position for most of this season, though, and it is something Rodgers believes should be the norm.

He said: “Whether it’s a case of wealth or not, it wouldn’t matter to me. I believe, at the club I’m at, that we should be finishing above [Everton].

“But it’s easier said than done. For the last two years, Everton have finished above Liverpool.

“They’ve had consistency and stability there as a club for a number of years, and players who have grown and developed over the last five or six years.

“But for me, irrespective of wealth, we would see ourselves as a club to be up there challenging at the top of the table.

“That’s what we’ve done, and we aim to continue that.”

Both sides go into the derby carrying a number of injuries; something Rodgers has acknowledged could affect the quality of the game.

For Liverpool, defenders Glen Johnson (ankle), Daniel Agger (calf), Mamadou Sakho (hamstring) and Jose Enrique (knee) are all out, as is Lucas Leiva with medial knee ligament damage, while fellow midfielder Joe Allen faces a late fitness test on a tight hamstring.

Everton, meanwhile, are definitely without Costa Rican left-back Bryan Oviedo (broken leg), midfielder Darron Gibson and striker Arouna Kone (both knee), while on-loan Barcelona forward Gerard Deulofeu is not quite ready to return from a torn hamstring.

In addition, their manager Roberto Martinez has doubts over three centre-backs -- captain Phil Jagielka (hamstring), Sylvain Distin (hamstring) and Antolin Alcaraz (muscle fatigue) -- as well as right-back Seamus Coleman (hamstring), and midfielders Steven Pienaar (groin) and Ross Barkley (broken toe).

Everton’s new striker Lacina Traore, brought in last Friday on loan from Monaco for the rest of the season, is recovering from a hamstring problem and will be assessed.

Rodgers, though, is focused only on the fitness problems in his own squad, and believes they can secure a Champions League spot if he can get most of his absentees back quickly.

He said: “I’m very optimistic, and I will rinse everything out of the players we have available.

“I said to the players at a meeting the other day that we have to fight now in these remaining games and get the injured ones back as fit as we possibly can and as quickly as we possibly can.

“We’re going to need every one of them in this next part of the season.

“I’ve always felt with the team that we would need to have everyone available, but if they’re not, then we still have to find ways to win games, and we’ve got to remain optimistic until everyone gets back.

“I’ve got players who are doing their absolute best. They’re getting on everything, and we’ve got results because of that.

“I’ve tried to build something here that means we’re not overly reliant on one player. This is about the system and the way of working.

“Of course, if you’ve got really good players, they make it work better.

“We hope that they can get back fairly quickly. We’ve got enough players to show that they can really contribute to the team.”

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