The old songs are being aired again and Brendan Rodgers is delighted that his players are humming along. Towards the end of another high-scoring victory for their team, the away fans launched into a chorus of "we're going to win the league".

It has been 24 years since Liverpool were champions of England and at times since then the club's players have seemed daunted by the demands to return to the top. But Rodgers says he has changed that. "That's what we can now do, deal with expectancy," says Rodgers. "When I came in here there was a huge expectancy but the players couldn't cope with it. But now we enjoy it, we relish it."

The Northern Irishman believes the method he has applied since arriving at Anfield in May 2012 has liberated the players by fostering a conviction that they can keep excelling even when the stakes soar. "We've created a culture which is about learning and improving," he said.

"I try to keep the pressure off the players in terms of focusing on performance. Because winning is a process. You don't just turn up and win. So we take the focus from the players, we ask them to concentrate on individual performance that they can bring to the team. It's my job to take that pressure off them so that they can go and perform. Go play with energy, play with commitment, play with quality and they have done that."

Liverpool are increasing their rhythm at the right time. They have won seven and drawn two of their last nine matches, making the sort of surge that ensures they can exploit any slowdown by their title rivals. Sir Alex Ferguson always used to stress that Manchester United got better in the second half of the season and Rodgers points out that his teams do too.

"That's the idea," Rodgers said. "I think over the years people have expected us to tail off. Actually now I think we're getting stronger. Last year I said how my teams work, we always get better in the second half of a season. Last year we did the same. This year we do the same. Our numbers are good so we've just got to keep it going."

The Liverpool captain, Steven Gerrard, who completed the victory at Southampton by scoring a late penalty to add to goals by Luis Suárez and Raheem Sterling, is not about to talk down his team's chances of landing the trophy he has long craved. "I think it's very nice that people are talking about us and we are in the title race," he said.

"There's no getting away from that, we're in it. Manchester City and Chelsea are still the favourites if you like because they've got that experience of going on to win it but I think they both know, listening to José Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini, that we are a big threat because we've got no Europe and we can be fresh every game."

In addition to preserving fitness, being spared European action gives Rodgers time to hone tactical tweaks like the one that helped beat Southampton, introducing a midfield diamond and restoring Suárez to a central role alongside Daniel Sturridge. "We've got a lot of time to prepare," says Gerrard. "We worked on this formation all week, we chose to play a diamond and I think it shocked Southampton."

For all that, Southampton looked a match for Liverpool for long periods and it was easy to see why they are almost as strongly represented in the England squad to take on Denmark on Wednesday. Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez played well and Adam Lallana was as intrepid a schemer as ever. But perhaps the most impressive home player was their newest England squad member, the left-back Luke Shaw. The 18-year-old's performances all season have been so exceptionally mature that it is easy to forget how quickly he has ascended to this level.

"Stevie [Gerrard] just had a little word after the match just to congratulate me and say 'I will see you tomorrow'. For me, it is great for the England captain to say something like that to me," said Shaw, who knows what he has to do to impress Roy Hodgson. "

I think Rickie will take me under his wing, as well as Adz and Jay. They all say 'keep doing what you're doing' and even Roy said that when I spoke to him on the phone. He said 'you're here on merit, keep doing what you are doing'."

Man of match Luis Suárez (Liverpool)