By Toby Davis
LONDON (Reuters) - Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes his team are back to their sizzling form of last season after a superb victory over Tottenham defied those who predicted a gloomy outlook in the post-Luis Suarez era.
The Merseysiders' 3-0 win at White Hart Lane on Sunday was achieved in the same swashbuckling manner as the run of 11 successive victories that took them to within two points of the Premier League title in May.
After a disappointing defeat by Manchester City, this was Liverpool's reminder to the Premier League that they remained a potent force, but also a clear sign of life following the departure of last season's star attraction.
Although Suarez has gone, it seems so has the fear that Rodgers's side may struggle for goals in his absence, with Sunday's haul taking their tally to six in three games.
"We have risen to every challenge since we have been here. It was the same last year - will we score enough goals and how can we improve?," the Liverpool manager told reporters.
"The beauty of this group is that they're very hungry... We played very well and probably clicked back into where we were last season - which was great to see. Hopefully people enjoyed watching us as well."
For Rodgers, Sunday's win was a personal milestone, bringing up his 56th victory in 100 games as Liverpool manager, putting him level with Bill Shankly and only behind Kenny Dalglish (62).
There was perhaps no better place to show that the departure of a top player need not have an overly detrimental effect - coming against a Tottenham team who were in the same situation last year.
Whereas Tottenham never quite recovered from Gareth Bale's move to Real Madrid, Rodgers can look at his squad and be satisfied with the attacking options at his disposal.
Debutant Mario Balotelli was effective if unspectacular and Daniel Sturridge had an uncharacteristic off day, but Raheem Sterling confirmed his rising stature and importance with a goal and a man-of-the-match display that delighted his manager.
Playing at the tip of Rodgers's diamond formation before switching to the more accustomed wing role, he showed the kind of tactical flexibility that managers love.
"He was fantastic today again and got another goal," the Liverpool boss said.
"His pressure and tactical awareness in the game is improving and, for a kid of 19, he has been great.
"He's flexible - we've tried to develop him to be able to not only be a wide player, but to have the freedom and awareness to play on the inside...
"It's important for me that they have the intelligence to play in a number of positions and I think he is developing that well."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)