LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Back in the Champions League and back in the Premier League title conversation, Liverpool has come a long way in a short time under Brendan Rodgers.
Yet, to satisfy the lofty expectations of one of England's two biggest clubs, it's time for Liverpool to make the next step.
And that means winning trophies.
After finishing eighth in 2012 and seventh in 2013, Liverpool made a giant leap last season by pushing Manchester City all the way in the title race and coming up just short, two points behind in second place. And it could have been so much better — the team held a five-point lead with three matches remaining, only to stumble with a first championship since 1990 in reach.
Going one better this season is the aim, but it will be tough — especially with their best player no longer around.
Luis Suarez, the Premier League's top scorer with 31 goals last season, was sold to Barcelona for $130 million, leaving a huge hole in Liverpool's squad.
Rodgers has spent the proceeds of Suarez's sale on a string of signings — Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert have arrived from Southampton, exciting winger Lazar Markovic joined from Benfica and holding midfielder Emre Can moved from Bayer Leverkusen. With Belgium striker Divock Origi joining from Lille for 10 million pounds ($17 million) but spending this season on loan at the French club, Liverpool's outlay is almost 100 million pounds ($170 million).
Yet, Lambert will be the only new striker in the squad and, at 32, is hardly an adequate replacement for Suarez. It means most of the attacking burden will be placed on Daniel Sturridge, now England's No. 1 striker but prone to injuries.
There is also the fear among some pundits that Liverpool could go the way of Tottenham, which brought in a slew of players on the back of selling Gareth Bale to Real Madrid last summer but failed to find the right mix and balance. Avoiding falling into that trap will be one of Rodgers' biggest tasks.
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