LIVERPOOL: Liverpool's keeper Pepe Reina has brushed off the club's troubled Premier League campaign and insisted the Reds are in better shape than last season.
Kenny Dalglish's side have endured a miserable top-flight campaign and could drop into the bottom half of the table if results conspire against them before their late game with Norwich on Saturday.
Yet February's League Cup triumph, which ended a six-year trophy drought, together with the club's run to the FA Cup final, have convinced Reina the Merseysiders are heading in the right direction.
“There's no doubt we've improved from last season already,” said the Spaniard. “We've won the Carling (League) Cup, with the possibility of a second, while also qualifying for Europe (albeit the second-tier Europa League).
“The target of the club is still to get back in the Champions League.
“But before the start of the season, if someone had said we'd win the Carling Cup, reach the final of the FA Cup, as well as getting seventh, probably most people would have taken that.
“It's always good to go back to winning ways.
“Some people might say the Carling Cup is not that important but, at the end of the day, it's a trophy. We knocked out Stoke, Chelsea and Manchester City.
“It was not easy. So it was a well-deserved success and I was pleased to be part of it.” Liverpool, beaten 1-0 at Anfield by West Brom last Sunday, head to Carrow Road in need of a morale-boosting win ahead of a vital week in which they entertain Fulham on Tuesday before next Saturday's FA Cup final with Champions League finalists Chelsea at Wembley.
Dalglish's side have won just three times in 15 league matches, while Norwich will move level on points with Liverpool if the visitors crash to an eighth league defeat in 11 games.
Liverpool midfielder Charlie Adam will not play again this season due to a knee injury but captain Steven Gerrard is set to return after missing the defeat by West Brom because of a niggling hamstring problem.
“He's fine, no problem,” said Dalglish when asked about Gerrard on Thursday.
“We said it was just a precaution so he's back training. He's been training all week, so there's no other problems.” Norwich captain Grant Holt believes the club face a battle to keep manager Paul Lambert, who has established the Canaries in the Premier League following promotion at the end of last season.
The Scot has impressed with Norwich more than holding their own after eye-catching wins over Tottenham and Newcastle.
“He has done a great job,” said Holt. “He came in and took us from League One to the Premier League, and obviously again this year.
“(Swansea manager) Brendan Rodgers has done well too and we are both in good positions and people are going to talk a lot.
“It's inevitable in football when things are going well for a certain manager that they will get touted around.
“But hopefully we will keep hold of him -- as long as I'm here, anyway.”