LIVERPOOL captain Steven Gerrard has backed new manager Brendan Rodgers to lead the club back into the UEFA Champions League at his first attempt.
The Reds have missed out on Europe's premier competition for the past three seasons after finishing outside the top four and Kenny Dalglish paid the price for their latest failure.
Although Liverpool owners John W Henry and Tom Werner insist there is no pressure on Rodgers to reach the Champions League in his first season, Gerrard is quoted in several national newspapers insisting a top-four finish is both a priority and a realistic target.
“It has got to come,” he said. “We are Liverpool. We can't finish eighth. We have got to put that right.
“I don't think it's ever happened that a team has gone from eighth to first, but there are still other big targets for us to achieve short term.
“Getting in that top four again is certainly the priority. I am confident we will get it. If we can play like we did in a lot of games last season and take our chances, I think we will be high up in the table.”
Gerrard, speaking on the club's pre-season tour of North America, says he was not surprised by the decision to replace the legendary Kenny Dalglish.
He also admits there is pressure on the players to perform in the new campaign but has been impressed by the impact made so far by Rodgers.
“Kenny knows himself that when Liverpool finish eighth, the owners and supporters are going to ask questions,” Gerrard added.
“While there was shock and disappointment at the time, you understood the decision.
“You move on with what the club wanted to do and they wanted Brendan Rodgers in.
“I think we'll definitely see a much bolder Liverpool team. Over the years, sometimes Liverpool have come up against certain type of opposition and we have shown them too much respect.
“But I think this manager is the opposite and wants us to play like a big team. I've been really impressed with him.”
Meanwhile, West Ham have declined to comment on speculation linking them with a move for striker Andy Carroll, who is on tour with Rodgers' squad and could feature in tomorrow's final friendly against Tottenham in Baltimore.
The newly-promoted Hammers are reported to have offered to take the Liverpool striker on loan for an initial fee of £2million, with £16m added on top of that to make the move permanent provided they avoid relegation from the Premier League next season.
However, Liverpool are thought to be holding out for £20m and would prefer not to loan out the forward, who cost the club £35m from Newcastle 18 months ago.
Newcastle had a loan bid for the 23-year-old rejected earlier this month, while Fulham are also thought to be interested in ending Carroll's stay on Merseyside.
Liverpool will face FC Gomel in the Europa League third qualifying round after the Belarusian side completed a 2-1 aggregate victory over FK Renova of Macedonia.
Gomel lost last night's second qualifying round second leg 1-0 at home to Renova following a |56th-minute goal from Ersen Asani but their 2-0 lead from the first leg ultimately proved enough to send them through to a clash with five-time European champions Liverpool.
The first leg, which will be the first competitive game in charge of Liverpool for new manager Brendan Rodgers, will take place in Gomel on August 2, with the return match being played at Anfield on August 9.