PL Stories - Ep 18Nov 30
Nottingham Forest head coach Steve Cooper on Liverpool test - "We have to be almost perfect in all parts of our game"
Forest are currently bottom of the Premier League, but Cooper is pleased with his team's attitude and believes they are capable of upsetting the Reds at the City Ground in a match you can watch live on BT Sport.
Steve Cooper is under no illusions about the size of the task that faces his Nottingham Forest side when they host Liverpool - but the Welshman believes his men can produce the improbable and upset the Reds.
Cooper, who previously worked as a Liverpool academy coach, took over at the City Ground in September last year and masterminded an extraordinary rise off the bottom of the Championship table and into the play-off spots, leading to a memorable victory over Huddersfield at Wembley to catapult the East Midlanders into the Premier League for the first time in 24 years.
Life has been tough in the top flight, and Forest find themselves propping up a division once more, but they can take some comfort from holding Brighton to a goalless draw at the Amex in midway, just their second clean sheet of the campaign.
It is now Cooper's task to mastermind a second league win of the campaign and, speaking ahead of the Saturday lunchtime kick-off live on BT Sport 1 and BT Sport Ultimate (with coverage starting at 11.30am), the 42-year-old, who was recently backed by the board in the form of a contract extension until 2025, was understandably reluctant to divulge the opponents' weaknesses.
"I’m not going to tell you what I think there might be, and there might not be that many – but at the same time, you've got to go into these games really backing yourself and really thinking you can make a difference, both as a player, with a plan, being at home with the stadium and the support that we get, so we're not going to go into the game fearing it and in awe of Liverpool," he said.
"We respect one of the real powerhouses of the league and any day you play them is as tough as it can get - particularly if they're on their day – and we have to be almost perfect in all parts of our game to play well, but why not?
"We will analyse them like we analyse every other opponent, while trying to have the impact in the game with our ideas, and a bit of good momentum, a good start, a bit of luck… who knows? We’ll be going into the game with confidence.
"We know the results are nowhere near where we want them and where they should be, but the spirit is strong, the togetherness is strong, and we don't look like a set of players and staff that have had poor results because that can easily happen.
"When you get some harsh defeats, we're really determined and probably more motivated than ever, and I think you saw a good side of that at Brighton, so we've got to keep building on that while trying to improve with the ball and improve all areas of our game and as I've said many times, this is a brilliant football challenge and we’re really committed to it."
Cooper can also draw encouragement from the fact that Liverpool only won by a goal at the City Ground in the FA Cup as the then-second-tier outfit pushed their more illustrious opponents all the way.
Forest are, like Liverpool, dealing with their fair share of injury issues.
Jack Colback, Moussa Niakhate, Lewis O'Brien and Omar Richards all remain out, while Renan Lodi is a doubt with an ankle injury and Harry Toffolo is also touch-and-go after picking up a thigh problem against Brighton.
As well as Cooper, Neco Williams and Taiwo Awoniyi will be going up against their old employers on Saturday, with the two players no doubt looking to prove a point after failing to establish themselves at Anfield.
One thing's for sure, a win would go down in Forest folklore and make the prospect of Premier League survival seem a lot more likely.