Liverpool: Top four target not pie in the sky - Hodgson

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson believes his side can still be regarded as challengers for the Barclays Premier League's top four but admits their situation will only improve with new signings.

The Reds are currently nine points adrift of one-time leaders Chelsea, who now occupy the final position for Champions League qualification.

With matches against Blackpool - on Boxing Day - Wolves, Bolton and Blackburn to come over the festive period there is a real chance to close the gap.

But what will be equally significant is what transfer activity there is next month.

"If the players are available that we have targeted and think could make us a better team then it would help us shape the team a lot

quicker than maybe will be the case otherwise," said Hodgson.

"We are anxious any players we bring in are the right ones and the right ones for the long-term future.

"It is important they are better than the players we have got, because I think the players we have got are better than they have shown on occasions.

"But I fear the type of player we feel we need to improve our team will not be available in January, even if money was available."

Despite Liverpool's top-four hopes being written off by most people outside Anfield, the 63-year-old manager remains cautiously optimistic his side can prove their doubters wrong having recovered from the worst start to a season since 1953/54.

"We are in a position to strike for the top four but we are a good few points off," Hodgson added.

"Some people would say it is pie in the sky to suggest we can do it but I don't think there is such a thing as pie in the sky in terms of football.

"I have seen so many times in the past teams who have been doomed to relegation not get relegated and teams like Leeds United many years ago who were so obviously going to win the first division and didn't do so.

"Everything is possible and while things are possible we will play for them but we are realistic and we are not making any vain promises.

"We know we have given ourselves a severe handicap but we will work to bring in that handicap."

One of the handicaps which has affected Liverpool season - namely injuries - appears to have lessened significantly with only defender Jamie Carragher (dislocated shoulder) and midfielder Jay Spearing (broken ankle) sidelined.

That means there is competition for places all over the pitch, not least at left-back where Fabio Aurelio is looking forward to an injury-free 2011 after missing a large chunk of the campaign so far.

"Looking at the past, staying injury-free could be a good target for me," said the Brazilian.

"But in the last few months I've grown stronger and I'm playing more minutes, so maybe I can have other targets too.

"It would be easy to give up, especially with all the problems I've been having.

"Now I feel I'm starting again. I signed the new contract in the summer and it is like starting again. I'm hoping this new phase at Liverpool can be better than the last one."

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