Skrtel: Reds defence is doing well
Liverpool may be having problems scoring this season but their defensive form has been crucial in keeping them in touch with the top four, and Martin Skrtel believes that is now one of their major strengths.
Earlier in the season there were changes in the back four as Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly were injured, forcing Skrtel to play out of position at right-back in a couple of matches.
A further injury to Jamie Carragher, firmly ensconced in the first team, in October, gave the Slovakia international and Daniel Agger the opportunity to forge a partnership and they have seized their chance.
In the six Premier League matches the experienced vice-captain has sat out, Liverpool have conceded just three times. That has enhanced their overall record of letting in just 13 in 15 league matches, which includes five clean sheets.
And the Reds' form since the 4-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur in mid-September, when they were reduced to nine men, is even better with just six goals getting past goalkeeper Pepe Reina in ten league appearances.
Last season Skrtel and Agger had a spell together when Carragher was out for two months with a dislocated shoulder, and the Slovakian believes the quality of his partner makes him easy to play alongside.
"Daniel is a top quality player and is easy to play alongside," Skrtel told the club's website. "We have a very good understanding on the pitch, which is important, and we are working hard and enjoying our job. I think we are doing well together.
"I'm really enjoying my football under the manager. The atmosphere around the club is very good and he has played me in almost every single game which gives me a lot of confidence. I'm happy I am playing and I am working as hard as I can to stay in the team."
Competition for centre-back places is high with both Carragher and summer signing Sebastian Coates, who have been paired together in the run to the League Cup semi-final, maintaining the pressure. Skrtel thinks that can only help over the coming weeks when the frequency of games increases and injuries are more likely.
"Our squad is now very strong," he said. "That is very important for the team because we have a lot of games in front of us, especially January when we have cup matches as well, so we need everybody fresh."
Suarez is 'so competitive'
While defensively things have tightened up, the story further up the field continues to be one of missed chances. Luis Suarez is the club's top scorer with eight, five of which have come in the league, but with the team failing to take advantage in the games they have dominated it has become increasingly important not to concede.
That was certainly the case last weekend against Queens Park Rangers, when the Uruguay striker's header proved enough to return the side to winning ways after their 11-match unbeaten run was ended at Fulham five days previously.
"It was important for us to keep a clean sheet against QPR and we have been working hard on defending as a team," Skrtel added.
"A clean sheet always gives the defence and Pepe a lot of confidence. It was very important to get back to winning ways at home against QPR. We created a lot of chances again and Luis got the important goal to get us three points."
Skrtel was full of praise for the South American's qualities on the pitch: "Luis is just a great player and it is very difficult playing against him on the training ground so I know what it's like for the opposition to face him.
"He is so competitive in training, every single session. I try not to let him score but that is not easy I can tell you, as he is very difficult to mark."