Hodgson warning to in-form Reds

The impressive 2-0 victory over Premier League leaders Chelsea

rightly earned huge credit from all quarters. A third successive

league win, and a fourth in all, has boosted confidence within the

squad and lifted the team up to ninth in the table – their highest

position since the opening weekend of the season. They have now

established a platform for themselves but the next 11 matches over

the coming two months are likely to shape their season. Liverpool

travel to Wigan on Wednesday and Stoke on Saturday with the fixture

list then giving them games against West Ham, Tottenham, Aston

Villa, Newcastle, Fulham, Blackpool, Wolves, Bolton and Blackburn

before the home Merseyside derby on January 16. A good run during

that spell will put them in prime position for a top-four finish

and so Hodgson is keen for his side to maintain their momentum. “We

have to be very careful. We have to get our feet back on the ground

very quickly after the Chelsea victory,” said the Liverpool

manager. “There has been a lot of bad things written, false

accusations and ludicrous stories being banded around. “We have got

through that by keeping our feet on the ground and trying to ignore

it as best as possible and making sure it does not affect our work.

“We now have to make sure any praise does not affect our work. We

have to realise we are capable of performances like the one against

Chelsea but we are also capable of performances like the one

against Blackpool when we were beaten 2-1. “We have to try to get

rid of one of those performances and keep the other. “But we have

four good wins behind us and let’s hope we can get at least one win

in the next two games as our form away from home has not been good

traditionally this year.” One of the players who has had to cope

with plenty of criticism over the past two years has been

midfielder Lucas Leiva, who was derided on a regular basis during

former manager Rafael Benitez’s reign. However, in the last four

matches the Brazil international has put in arguably his best

performances for the club with yesterday’s display against Chelsea

the best by far. Hodgson praised the 23-year-old for the way he has

handled the pressure and emerged a better player. “Lucas has been

strong mentally and he needs to be because he is a good footballer,

like many of the other players who are getting stick or will get

stick,” added the Reds boss. “We don’t have that many bad players

here but it is a big arena to play in and people expect a lot from

players. “Where Lucas has been strong is to put the criticism he

has been receiving over the last couple of years behind him and get

out and show he is a very good player. “I’ve always believed in him

and to be fair my predecessor never doubted him, playing him on a

regular basis, so he didn’t give the criticism any credence

either.” Fernando Torres obviously took all the plaudits after his

two goals against Chelsea but Hodgson is seeing signs that other

players are starting to finally find their feet. “A lot of our

players need time. Raul Meireles (an £11.5million summer

signing) needs time; he is a good footballer but he is not playing

anywhere near what he is really capable,” said the 63-year-old.

“Maxi Rodriguez had a very good game and Dirk Kuyt came in, we’ve

missed him, and if you are going to single out someone Martin Kelly

deserves a lot of praise. “It was a tough game for him to come into

because the left side of Chelsea’s attack is a very dangerous one

and you have to make some very nuance decisions there and I think

he did pretty well. “He might not have been in the 18 had Sotirios

Kyrgiakos and Glen Johnson not gone down with sickness and injury

on the morning of the game.”