By Mike Collett
March 1 (Reuters) - As far as everyone but Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is concerned, the Merseyside club are definite contenders to win the most open Premier League title race for years.
Privately, perhaps, Rodgers may share that view although he was certainly giving nothing away publicly after his team chalked up a fourth straight league success with a 3-0 victory at Southampton on Saturday that put them second behind Chelsea.
It was a typically battling and entertaining performance from Liverpool who survived some scares, especially in the first half, against a very effective and fired-up Saints side who could have scored three times before the break.
Adam Lallana, one of nine players in the match included in Roy Hodgson's latest England squad, hit a post for the home side, Morgan Schneiderlin fired just over and Jay Rodriguez was denied by a great save from Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet.
In the end though, as they have done so often this season, Liverpool won by a distance.
Luis Suarez scored his first goal for six games with an opportunistic strike after 16 minutes, Raheem Sterling scored with his first touch in the 58th, soon after coming on as a substitute, and a thunderous stoppage-time penalty from Steven Gerrard wrapped up another emphatic Liverpool victory.
As he has been doing all season, Rodgers would not be drawn on his team's chances of lifting the club's first league title since 1990 even though they are only four points behind Chelsea and still have to play them at Anfield on April 27.
Although there is still almost a quarter of the season to go and Manchester City (57 points) have two games in hand over the leading trio of Chelsea (63), Liverpool and Arsenal (both 59), that match could yet be the title decider.
Chelsea were the last team to beat Liverpool in the league on Dec. 29 since when Rodgers' side have won seven of their last nine league games and drawn the other two.
When asked what Liverpool need to do in their last 10 games to win the league, Rodgers grinned and side-stepped the issue.
"There are 10 games to go now and we will just see where they take us," he told Sky Sports.
"I don't know how many of those games we have to win to win the title - I'm taking the easy way out - I am not going to give you an answer," he laughed.
"I just want to enjoy watching the team and we just want to win the next game. That's our focus.
"We are just concentrating on what we are doing. Everyone speaks about Chelsea and Manchester City and Arsenal and rightly so, they are three teams that have been up there for a number of years. We just want to keep improving."
Liverpool have been doing that under Rodgers all season and although City and Chelsea remain favourites to occupy the top two spots, Liverpool clearly are very much in the mix no matter what Rodgers might like everyone to believe. (Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Ken Ferris)