Liverpool’s Markovic out to prove worth to Rodgers

Serbian winger impresses manager with performance in League Cup quarter-final against Bournemouth
Liverpool's Serbian midfielder Lazar Markovic controls the ball during the English League Cup quarter-final match against Bournemouth at Goldsands Stadium in Bournemouth, England, on December 17, 2014. Adrian Dennis / AFP
Liverpool's Serbian midfielder Lazar Markovic controls the ball during the English League Cup quarter-final match against Bournemouth at Goldsands Stadium in Bournemouth, England, on December 17, 2014. Adrian Dennis / AFP

Liverpool winger Lazar Markovic looks as though he is starting to settle into English football after manager Brendan Rodgers urged him to be more aggressive.

That advice backfired when he was sent off just 15 minutes after coming on as a substitute in the club’s Uefa Champions League exit against Basel last week after flailing an arm into an opponent’s face.

However, employed on the left side of a midfield four against Bournemouth on Wednesday, which required more defensive effort than he is used to, Markovic impressed and scored his first goal for the club.

“I thought it was a great finish. I thought he was excellent in a role where we asked different tactical elements from him,” Rodgers said.

“His energy and quality was good and he was a real threat for us.

“It has taken him a bit of time to get going, and we have talked to him about being more aggressive in his game.

“In the 15 minutes before he got sent off against Basel – and it was disappointing that he was sent off because he started really well – that’s the Markovic that we know.”

Rodgers said Markovic was outstanding in the role he played against Bournemouth, was defensively and tactically good, and pressed the ball at the right times.

With the ball, his speed and movement was excellent,” Rodgers said. “He has got good quality and is a good footballer.

“It is pleasing. At 20 years of age, he looks like he is improving all the time.”

Markovic cost Liverpool £20 million (Dh114.8m) when he moved from Benfica as one of Europe’s brightest talents, but he has so far failed to show many glimpses of his potential.

The Serbia international will hope he did enough in midweek to retain a place to face Arsenal on Sunday.

Liverpool need a good performance against the London side, who have scored four goals in their past two matches in the Premier League and Europe.

They have scored just seven goals in eight matches at Anfield in the league this season, goals that have produced just 12 points at home, and they are five points adrift of Arsenal.

Having lost to Manchester United last weekend to fall 10 points behind their arch-rivals they can ill afford another defeat to a top-four rival.

Asked what a win over Arsenal would do for their season, never mind their confidence, Rodgers said: “Internally, it will continue our spirit and our focus.

“For us it will be good for confidence, but it will be a difficult game. They are a top side with outstanding players. They did OK at home last week, winning 4-1 against Newcastle, and they played really well.

“They have outstanding players, but we will look to focus on ourselves.”

Defender Dejan Lovren faces a late test to see whether he has recovered from the groin problem that forced him off against Bournemouth, but it seems likely Mamadou Sakho could deputise in a newly formed back three, which would be his first start in the league since mid-September.

sports@thenational.ae

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Published: December 21, 2014 04:00 AM

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