Steve Clarke
Liverpool first-team coach Steve Clarke has praised the squad's strength in depth. REUTERS

Liverpool first-team coach Steve Clarke has praised the impact of Liverpool's senior players following their 2-1 Premier League victory over Chelsea.

Kenny Dalglish left summer-signings Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing on the substitutes bench for Sunday's trip to Stamford Bridge as Maxi Rodriguez and Craig Bellamy shone in their absence.

Clarke paid tribute to Liverpool's strength in depth and insisted nobody involved at the club was surprised by the duo's impact.

Maxi notched Liverpool's opening goal, after Charlie Adam forced John Obi Mikel into a mistake on the edge of the Chelsea box. Craig Bellamy's composed pass released the Argentine to slot home and the pair linked-up well throughout the high-tempo victory.

"Everybody here knows the qualities of Maxi. He's been unfortunate this year that he's not had an extended run in the team, but what it does say about him is that he is a complete professional.

"When you're not in the team, it's difficult to come in every day, work hard and be prepared for your chance. When Maxi went in, he did a fantastic job for us."

Liverpool moved level on points with Chelsea in their pursuit of a Champions League place and Clarke believes the squad's fringe players will play a key role as the club fights for honours on three fronts.

"Everybody has spoken about the squad we've got this year. We feel it's an improvement on what we inherited when Kenny and I came to the club.

"The squad is stronger this year and I think the weekend proved that. If you look at the bench, it was very strong.

"What you try to create at a club like Liverpool is competition for places. Everybody has that competition for their place now and it can only be helpful for the group going forward."