Liverpool defender Daniel Agger will keep his place for Saturday’s trip to Southampton after a nightmare week that saw his Anfield future called into question.
Reds manager Brendan Rodgers has backed the defender to recover from a difficult afternoon last Sunday, when he was taken off after 63 minutes of the 4-3 victory over Swansea.
Rodgers revealed after the game that Agger, 29, was not injured, leading to reports that the centre-back was fighting for his Liverpool career.
The Reds boss, however, has refused to pin blame on his defence for some recent error-strewn displays, with his team struggling for clean sheets and conceding six goals in their last three matches.
And he has given his public backing to Agger, whose season has been blighted by injuries and inconsistency.
The Denmark international has made only two starts since picking up a calf strain in the FA Cup third round win over Oldham on Jan. 5, having struggled for more than a month to regain his place after suffering a rib injury in September.
Rodgers said: “I think there’s been a big spotlight, unfairly, on Daniel this week. What happened to him was no different to what can happen to any player. Just because it’s a defender, maybe it gets highlighted a wee bit more. But we made the change and we won the game. It’s no different to a winger coming off, or a striker or a midfield player.
“I don’t judge players on the status of where they are in the group. It’s about what I think the game needs at a certain time. We made the change, and Dan has taken it like the man he is. He’s been outstanding in training this week, and he will play on Saturday. There’s no question about that.”
Liverpool head to Southampton as the Premier League’s leading scorers with 70 goals, sitting in fourth place, four points behind leaders Chelsea. But they have conceded 35 times, more than any other side in the top half of the table, bar Newcastle.
As far as Rodgers is concerned, though, the goals against record is a team responsibility.
He said: “It’s not about any one player with us, or any one unit. It’s the whole team. If we score 70 goals and are the highest scorers in the division, it’s because we’re building a platform for the team to go forward and play.
“And if we are under pressure to defend, it’s because we either haven’t pressed the ball well enough at the top of the field, and that has a consequence for the rest of the team.
“This is about a team that’s evolving and improving all the time. We had a huge task when I came in here to improve our goals for record. That’s something we’ve done and continued to do.
“And as this team grow and get better, we will improve in other aspects. We’ve got to where we are, with 11 games to go, because of the whole squad, and the collective effort. It’s not just about the back four and the goalkeeper; it’s about the team.”