LIVERPOOL // Brendan Rodgers concedes Liverpool hit rock bottom last month but the manager is confident surviving such a tumultuous period will be the making of his players.
Rodgers' side lost three successive English Premier League matches for the first time in his two-and-a-half-year reign as a nightmare run threatened to ruin Liverpool's season.
But they responded positively to end November with a battling 2-2 Uefa Champions League draw against Bulgarian side Ludogorets and then a 1-0 league win over Stoke City last weekend.
Liverpool followed that with a more convincing 3-1 victory at Leicester in midweek and Rodgers says morale at Anfield has improved significantly ahead of Saturday’s home clash with Sunderland.
“We were at a low as everyone saw,” Rodgers said. “We had set such high standards here over the past couple of years and we had fallen way below that.
“I felt the performance levels weren’t quite right. But I felt the change after that. I felt that could be the making of us.
“Our last two performances have shown we have got that character.
“That period where we hadn’t won, we had some decent performances but ultimately we’re in the business of winning.”
Liverpool now face a defining month as they look to make up ground in the Premier League starting with the visit of Sunderland, before matches against Manchester United and Arsenal.
They also face Swiss side Basel knowing victory is required to reach the last 16 of the Champions League next week, and travel to Bournemouth in the League Cup quarter-finals a week after that.
“The feeling is certainly different now,” Rodgers added. “For us we just need to go game by game. That’s how you build runs and momentum.
“It was the same last year when we won 11 games in a row. The feeling now is much different on the training field and in the changing room.”
Liverpool are still without Italian striker Mario Balotelli (groin) and will assess knee injuries picked up by midfielder Philippe Coutinho and left-back Jose Enrique.
Long-term absentees Daniel Sturridge (thigh), Mamadou Sakho (hip) and Jon Flanagan (knee) all remain on the sidelines.
Meanwhile, Sunderland manager Gus Poyet says his side must show the right kind of mentality as they look to end their long winless run at Anfield.
The Black Cats have not beaten Liverpool on Merseyside since October 1983, and are intent on bouncing back quickly from the 4-1 midweek home defeat to Manchester City that left them two points above the relegation zone.
Poyet, whose side have won one of their last seven games, is set to ring the changes as his squad faces the third of the Premier League’s four Champions League sides in succession.
“I’m trying to create a new mentality here. I need to get people to break away from the idea that just because we’re playing a top team that we can accept a defeat,” Poyet said.
“I don’t see how you can convince yourself you’re going to win a game if you think it doesn’t matter if you lose.
“It’s a mental thing, and the more the players get the idea that we can’t accept defeat to anyone, the easier it becomes to approach each game with a belief we can win.”
Winger Adam Johnson, centre-back Wes Brown and midfielder Jordi Gomez are set to return to the starting line-up after missing out against City.
Will Buckley, Sebastian Coates, and Jack Rodwell are the players expected to make way.
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