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He may be enjoying an extended run in the Liverpool starting XI, but the huge level of competition for defensive berths is ensuring that Martin Skrtel produces his finest form.
After beginning the 2013-14 campaign in the same place that he concluded last season - on the bench - the Slovakian international has now started each of the last seven matches for the Reds.
But with vice-captain Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sakho, Kolo Toure and more battling to earn a spot in Brendan Rodgers' team, the No.37 knows he must maintain his performance.
The 28-year-old told the Liverpool Echo: "After last season when I couldn't get into the team, this season has been very different so far.
"I am very happy. I am playing every game and trying to do my best for the team.
"Now I have to try to stay in the starting XI. It's up to me to keep proving to the manager that I deserve a place.
"There is real competition for places at the back but that's good for everybody. It's important because it pushes everyone to do better.
"You have to show what you can do every day in training and you know that if you don't perform there's someone waiting to take your place."
The centre-back could not prevent the Reds from shipping two goals against Newcastle on Saturday as he once again operated in a defensive three alongside Sakho and Toure.
Although Rodgers' side played 10 men for the whole of the second half at St James' Park, Skrtel hopes that by the end of the season it can be considered one point gained.
"It was disappointing to only get a point as for all of the second half we had an extra player. For the opening 20 minutes we didn't play well," he added.
"We couldn't keep the ball. After the red card the game changed and we got back level. We knew that in the second half they would sit deep, defend and then play for the counter-attack.
"The message from the manager was to be patient, keep the ball and try to score.
"Unfortunately we conceded again but after that we created some really good chances. Unfortunately we could only take one of them.
"We wanted three points but it wasn't an easy game for us after the internationals.
"We had a lot of players away and league games straight after an international break are always difficult to play. You don't have much time to prepare for them.
"Newcastle played well and it's a difficult ground to play at. The main thing is we didn't lose and we're still in a good position.
"Maybe in the future we will look back upon it as a good point for us. The league so far this season is very open.
"It's still early and teams are full of energy and full of fight. It's not easy to play against them and we must ensure we keep improving."
Author: @shawct Tagged:
, newcastle united
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