Brendan Rodgers is slightly disappointed he will not be bumping into Paolo Di Canio when Liverpool visit Sunderland on Sunday afternoon, though he is sure he will meet him somewhere in the future as long as the Italian learns from his mistakes and reflects on his experience.

"Once you've been sacked, although you don't want to hear it at the time, you come back a better manager," the Liverpool manager said. "I've met Paolo a few times and friends of mine know him very well. I have always been aware of his passion. Tommy Burns, who was a good friend of mine, took Paolo to Celtic so I knew all the stories about him. It is just a shame because you can see the professionalism in the man. People say he is a perfectionist, but that's not the worst thing to be. He was trying to create a culture of work and devotion to life as a professional footballer. I am sad for him because I could see what his vision was and what he was trying to create."

Rodgers managed to survive a sacking early in his managerial career – poor results led to him leaving Reading after six months – and he feels Di Canio is also strong enough to bounce back. "I hope that will be the case, it would be a shame to lose a guy with such a passion for the game," he said. "You learn from your mistakes as a manager and I'm sure he'll go away and reflect on it.

"He did an excellent job at Swindon after all. He didn't take the easy route, he went into League Two and, whatever his management style was, he did very well. He earned his break at Sunderland. It didn't work out, but he can learn from the experience. People like him, enjoy watching him, but football is a business now. You have to be an ambassador for your club as well as a manager. Plus players are different now. They argue back, want to set up a debate. It is well documented now the management of players is totally different to what it was 15 or 20 years ago. Nowadays you can still tell anyone in the world whatever you want to tell them but how you deliver it is important."

After a promising start to the season that produced three consecutive victories and three clean sheets, Liverpool have lost their past two games to single goals conceded from corners, a source of frustration to the manager. "It's something that we can put right, and we will," Rodgers promised. "It's reasonably straightforward. It's the only moment in the game when the ball is dead so you get the chance to get set up. It is about concentration: you stay with your man and make sure he doesn't score. It is an individual thing, something we can work on."

Even with Luis Suárez back Liverpool will need to step up their efforts if a top-four finish is to be achieved. They have yet to put in a 90-minute performance as impressive as the best seen by supporters of Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United this season, and even Rodgers accepts they are a long way from title contenders.

"It's clear if you look at our squad, we have never ever professed to be challenging for the title," he said. "When it comes to the top four, fair enough, we want to be in the conversation, but winning the title this season is not something that has ever been mentioned."