LIVERPOOL -- Brendan Rodgers has taken a tongue-in-cheek swipe at Manchester City’s wage bill by suggesting that such highly paid players might have expected to play better against Liverpool at Anfield last Sunday.
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A survey conducted by Sporting Intelligence and ESPN the Magazine revealed on Wednesday that City are the best-paid team in world sport.
The Capital One Cup winners’ first-team players each earn an average of $8.1 million (5.3 million pounds) per year, putting them just ahead of two baseball teams, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
City’s overall team payroll, of $202 million, is the third highest, behind the Yankees and the Dodgers, who spent $241 million on salaries.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side, though, are third in the Premier League, six points behind leaders Liverpool with a game in hand.
Rodgers has dismissed the idea that his side were fortunate to beat City, who looked likely winners after fighting back from two goals down to draw level and missed a great chance to go in front through David Silva before Philippe Coutinho struck a winner.
The Liverpool manager said: “We’ve had other games this season where we’ve been under pressure. There were 20 minutes at the beginning of the second half where we had to stand up and be counted.
“And they’re entitled to that. When you’ve got the biggest wage bill in sport, you’ve got to perform at some stage in a game.
"In those 20 minutes, they got their goals. The second one was a deflected goal. But then we came back and showed what great teams do. They bounce back. We showed the resilience and the quality that sees you through.”
Rodgers stopped short of suggesting outright that City have under-performed this season. But there is a clear indication that he feels his team have over-achieved by going top in the later stages of the title race, having finished seventh last season.
The manager said in March that his team were a year ahead of schedule in terms of their league position.
He insisted then that the priority this season had been only to qualify for the Champions League, which his side will do if they win at Norwich on Sunday, or if Everton fail to beat Manchester United.
But a run of 10 successive league victories have left Liverpool two points clear at the top with four matches to play, and a return of 10 points from those fixtures will guarantee the club their first league title since 1990.
Rodgers’ side are now the bookies' favourites, but he insists that does not bring an extra burden. He said: “We deal with things the same as we have from the very first game of the season, really.
“There’s no added pressure. There’s no more or less pressure than there was then. We’ll look to win the game at the weekend. We’re still in check with reality in terms of where we’re at.
“We’ve made great progress this season and our objective to qualify for the Champions League was always going to be a very, very difficult one. But we’re still on course for that. If we can get a win at the weekend, that would be rubber-stamped for us.”
City’s failure to beat bottom club Sunderland increased Liverpool’s chances of winning the title, but Rodgers also sees it as a warning for his side as they get ready for Sunday's visit to a Norwich side who are also battling relegation.
“Things don’t fall into place for you. You have to make them happen," he insisted. “There were two things for me that came out of last night. I think last night was a warning sign for everyone. With four games of the season to go, there’s nothing guaranteed. I’ve said that all along.
“Our rivals may have dropped points, but that’s irrelevant. We have to do the job. I’m not sure if winning the title will come down to who copes best with the mental pressure. It certainly won’t be for us. We might get a bit of bad luck or pay for a genuine honest mistake.
“We’ve been asked a lot of questions over these last two or three months, and I think the players have been magnificent in their response to that.
“We certainly don’t have our hands up in the air. The finish line is still a wee way out yet.”