Reina: Reds right on track
Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina believes the club's recent recruitment drive has helped close the gap further to the English Premier League's top teams.
Captain Steven Gerrard has spoken of his confidence that the club can regain their UEFA Champions League status after two seasons outside European football's elite. And Reina has been encouraged by the investment of almost £120million in new players the last 10 months, many of whom played in Saturday's 1-1 draw with champions Manchester United - a game which Liverpool arguably should have won.
"I hope [the signings] have helped close the gap," said the Spain international. "Our belief is about the quality of the team and the squad and the strength we have as a group of players and a club - that is all that matters.
"We have to work on a daily basis trying to improve and keep going to try to compete more often with people above us," he added. "It is still early days to talk about closing gaps but we will find out at the end of the season. Hopefully the distance won't be as big."
A disillusioned Reina could have left the club last year during the final months of the tumultuous and dysfunctional reign of Tom Hicks and George Gillett. The then owners blocked a £20million bid from Arsenal, he claims not because they were desperate for him to stay but because they did not want his departure to affect their chances of selling the club.
In the end the matter was taken out of Hicks and Gillett's hands as, with Royal Bank of Scotland in a position to put the club in administration, a deal was done with Fenway Sports Group - who marked their one-year anniversary in charge at the weekend. Their arrival and that of Kenny Dalglish for a second spell in charge in January turned the club onto a different course and with a host of new arrivals a new wave of optimism has swept through Anfield.
Liverpool currently sit fifth in the Premier League, six points off leaders Manchester City, having lost only twice in eight matches. Performances have improved remarkably and Reina is pleased to have witnessed the turnaround.
"It is a positive thing to be disappointed after not beating Manchester United," he added. "We are clearly playing better and are winning games and that is key. I think we have had just one poor game - at Spurs (a 4-0 defeat in which Liverpool had two players sent off ) - and over the season it has not been a bad balance at all. We are much happier than a year ago."
With no European football at all this season, Dalglish has taken the opportunity to slot in an additional game to help his squad remain competitive with a friendly against Rangers at Ibrox tomorrow.
For Reds midfielder Charlie Adam it is the first time he will have faced his former club since leaving in the summer of 2009. And while he has mixed feelings about his time in Glasgow he hopes the team can use the match to continue to build momentum and confidence after being shaken by back-to-back Premier League defeats last month.
"[There were] ups and downs really. I had some great times there but also some hard times and that was with not playing, which was a difficult period," said the Scotland international. "That's the way it goes sometimes and football changes so much nowadays. But the friendly is certainly one I'm looking forward to because it's not very often you get the opportunity to go back and play against your former club.
"Hopefully it will be a good game and we can get the right result which is important because winning breeds confidence," he went on. "If we can win that it will give us a boost going into Saturday's game with Norwich. It's a good opportunity for us to play someone different. We want to get back in the Champions League so this game will be a good test for us and different to the Premier League."