Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has defended Dejan Lovren ahead of the Premier League’s “biggest derby” against Manchester United.
Liverpool go into Saturday’s trip to Old Trafford level with United on seven points but behind their rivals on goal difference after the opening four games.
The Merseysiders were beaten 3-0 by West Ham at Anfield prior to the international break, with Lovren badly at fault for the visitors’ second goal.
The Croatia defender came under heavy scrutiny last season following a £20million move from Southampton, but rather than dwell on his latest mistake, Rodgers preferred to focus on some improved performances in the opening three games during his press conference on Friday.
“Dejan knows we performed below the level in that game (v West Ham),” Rodgers said. “He knows he made a mistake but it was about the collective.
“In his first three games this season Dejan showed he has the quality and the consistency to perform well.”
A trip to Manchester United is unlikely to have been Rodgers’ first choice as Liverpool look to bounce back after the international break, but the Northern Irishman acknowledges the boost a win could give his side going into the rest of the season.
“It’s however the games come, you know you’re going to have to deal with them,” he added.
“This game comes on back of international break so had virtually no time to work with players. Some only arrived back yesterday.”
“But the players are focused and we will be ready for it.
“It’s a good opportunity for us on the back of a disappointment. A chance to put that behind us.
“We’ve had two tough games away from home and performed well in terms of our organisation. We also want to be really creative.”
“This is the biggest derby game in the history of this league. Winning a game like this can give you psychological boost.”
“United is a huge club and will always be under scrutiny. The intensity of this fixture is still there. The players will feel it.”
Liverpool will again be without Daniel Sturridge on Saturday, while decisions on Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana will be taken “over the next 24 hours”, according to Rodgers.
Sturridge is back in training at least, but no timeframe has been set on a possible return. Rodgers admitted he can “never say” for sure if the striker has overcome his fitness problems once and for all, but his return can not come quickly enough for the Reds boss.
“Our tally of goals will increase as team improves over course of the season,” Rodgers added. “Daniel coming back into the fold will help that.”