Hodgson: Liverpool unlikely to challenge

LIVERPOOL - Manager Roy Hodgson has hinted that Liverpool are unlikely to mount a Premier League title challenge this season.

Hodgson, who left Fulham last month to succeed Rafa Benitez at Anfield, told reporters on Friday his team could not yet match champions Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal, the perennial front-running trio.

"After seven training sessions with what I regard as the key players it is pretty obvious to all we are a long, long way from being a team like United, Arsenal or Chelsea who have been working under the same coach for at least a year," he said.

"I don't even pretend the team after six or seven training sessions are going to be anything like the team we want to be," added Hodgson ahead of Sunday's season-opener at home to Arsenal.

"It would be ridiculous to suggest we can be at the top of our game now in terms of how I want the team to play."

Whether it was a deliberate ploy by Hodgson to take pressure off his players, time will tell, but the club can only dream of dominating English soccer the way they did in the 1970s and 1980s under Bill Shankly and his successor Bob Paisley.

Confidence was shattered last season as they lost their way under Benitez and a seventh-place finish was their lowest for 11 years. It is now 20 years since Liverpool won their 18th top-flight championship.


However with talk of a takeover of the club and new signings such as Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic, many fans have begun to believe the Merseysiders can again become a major footballing force.

Hodgson also said there was no sign of Javier Mascherano leaving Liverpool. The Argentina midfielder has made it clear he wants to go because his family have failed to settle.

European champions Inter Milan, now managed by Benitez, are the favourites to sign him but Hodgson said he had yet to hear of any bid.

"I can quite categorically state there has been no offer from any club for Javier Mascherano," he said. "As a result I don't see why I should put his loyalty or desire to play for the club in doubt every day.

"I don't want to let Javier Mascherano go. At the moment Javier Mascherano has shown no signs of going so it's not a question of replacing him."

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