Dalglish hails Reds' pride ahead of Magpies visit

LIVERPOOL, England, April 30, 2011 (AFP) - Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish awaits Sunday's encounter with Newcastle United buoyed by the strength in depth he feels he has at Anfield.

Liverpool have taken 27 points from their last 14 league games, and are behind only Manchester United and Chelsea in the Premier League form table.

AFP - Birmingham City's manager Alex McLeish (R) and Liverpool's manager Kenny Dalglish (L) look on during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Birmingham City at Anfield in Liverpool on April 23, 2011.

That has been achieved without the likes of regular first teamers Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger, Martin Kelly, Glen Johnson and record signing Andy Carroll - signed from Newcastle for £35m in January.

The highlight of Liverpool's form was the 5-0 thrashing of Birmingham City last weekend, helped by a Maxi Rodriguez hat-trick, and Dalglish believes Liverpool's squad is improving by the week.

"I think (winning 5-0) is an indication of how far the players have come," he said.

"It is they who get the results on the pitch, and they did fantastically well against Birmingham.

"It is very pleasant to see the boys come in, and it was great that Maxi got three and Joe (Cole) got one.

"It is good to see they have kept themselves as close to match condition as they can with the way they have trained, and when they get their opportunity to play, they can play very well.

"They are playing for Liverpool, that is the biggest thing. The fact that they take pride in their own performance shows they take huge pride in the club. I think that was reflected in the performance on Saturday."

Carroll is nursing a knee problem and may not be fit to face his former club but if he does feature, Dalglish has backed him to be able to handle any abuse thrown at him because of his contentious move on the last day of the transfer window.

"I think the boy is expecting something," Dalglish said.

"The fans will do whatever they want. It will not take away from what he has done for their club and it won't take away what the club meant to Andy.

"It is a compliment, really, in a strange way, if you do get the abuse because it means you must have been important to them."

Newcastle have not won in the league at Anfield for 17 years, but Peter Lovenkrands is confident Alan Pardew's side can celebrate having all but secured Premier League safety by springing a surprise at a ground where they have failed to score in over seven hours' football spanning six-and-a-half years.

The Danish forward found the net in last week's hard-fought 1-1 draw at Blackpool that took Pardew's side to 41 points, seven above the relegation zone ahead of this weekend's games.

"Hopefully, we can go there and surprise a few people by getting a point or three," Lovenkrands said.

"Liverpool have a lot to play for, so they're going to be up for it, we know that, but as a team we don't want to slacken off. We're up for any game."

Newcastle have confounded many critics who tipped them to go straight back down after last season's Championship title success, although Lovenkrands won't be in full celebratory mode until the North-East club are mathematically safe.

With four games remaining to seal a top-half finish, the 31-year-old added: "Something will have to go fantastically wrong for us not to stay up, and if we could get in to the top 10 having come up from the Championship we could be proud of that.

"We've done really well to keep away from the relegation scrap."

Newcastle's Liverpool-born skipper and 12-goal top scorer Kevin Nolan, who is set to sign a new three-year contract extension, faces a fitness test on a calf muscle problem.

Manager Alan Pardew revealed: "We've had to protect him this week because he's desperate to play."

Other news