Owen: Third would be step forward for Liverpool

Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen believes finishing third this season would be a 'huge step forward' for the club.

Brendan Rodgers' free-scoring side came within a whisker of lifting their first top flight title since 1990 last season, notching 101 times with strike pair Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge contributing more than half of them.

The sale of Suarez to Barcelona and return of European football to the Reds' calendar was expected to harm their chances of a repeat tilt at top spot. However the Merseysiders have made an solid start to the new campaign, recovering from defeat at Manchester City by dismissing Spurs 3-0 at White Hart Lane.

Nevertheless Owen, who bagged 118 goals in 216 league appearances from 1996-2004, believes retaining a Champions League place in 2014/15 without Suarez's services should be regarded as a success.

"It’s obviously impossible to fill in a gap left by a player of that quality. So it’s not just about filling a gap with one replacement. I think everyone – Sturridge, [Philippe] Coutinho, [Raheem] Sterling, [Steven] Gerrard – has got to up their game 10% again if that’s at all possible," said the BT Sport pundit.

"It’s nearly impossible to plug a gap of 30+ goals and loads of assists and the effect that Suarez had on the team. So it’s going to be difficult to do.

"If Liverpool finish third or fourth of course it will be a step back in terms of places in the Premier League, but I think it would be a huge step forward again from last season whereby they had everyone fit and only the league to concentrate on.

"With all the added pressures and players that have left over the summer I think if Liverpool finish in the Champions League positions again it could be seen as another step forward for Brendan Rodgers."

Michael Owen is pundit for BT Sport, who this season will show 38 Barclays Premier League matches live plus top games from the FA Cup, UEFA Europa League and live action from more top flight football leagues than any other UK TV provider.