Rodgers under scrutiny as Liverpool hosts Chelsea
06 November 2014, 15:53
Manchester — Criticized for picking a perceived weakened lineup against Real Madrid in midweek, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers can justify that controversial selection if his regulars return to hand Chelsea a first Premier League loss of the season on Saturday.
Rodgers was accused by some of betraying Liverpool's rich European pedigree by dropping his star names for Tuesday's Champions League match in Spain, appearing to show he valued the Chelsea match higher. Liverpool lost 1-0.
If the gamble pays off and the likes of rested quartet Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Mario Balotelli return to inspire Liverpool to victory at Anfield, some of Rodgers' critics may fall silent.
Chelsea, though, is unbeaten in all competitions, leads the league by four points and has returned from the northwest with draws at Manchester City and Manchester United already this campaign.
Liverpool is in seventh place — 12 points behind Chelsea — and showing none of the form that took the team to a second-place finish last season.
Here are some other things to watch out for in the Premier League this weekend;
Chelsea is undefeated in 14 games this season, top of both its domestic and Champions League standings and has no apparent weaknesses in its squad.
You would not know it listening to its manager over the past week.
After the 2-1 win over Queens Park Rangers last weekend, a sullen Jose Mourinho said he was not happy with his team and complained about the lack of atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge. "Playing here is like playing in an empty stadium," he said.
Then after a 1-1 draw with Maribor in the Champions League on Wednesday, Mourinho criticized his players for lacking focus and underestimating opponents.
A win at Anfield should cheer up Mourinho, though. After Saturday, Chelsea will have played arguably its three toughest away games at Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool and is sure to be in first place.
Memories of a Premier League-League Cup double last season are fading fast at Man City.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini said Wednesday his team was going through a "crisis of confidence" after a 2-1 loss to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League left the English champions bottom of the group and unlikely to qualify for the knockout stage.
City has also stuttered in the Premier League and is six points behind Chelsea going into Saturday's match at Queens Park Rangers.
"We must find out why (there is a crisis) by talking to the players every day," Pellegrini said. "These players are important players so I don't understand why they cannot play in the Champions League."
A 1-0 derby win over United on Sunday is the only bright point in a dreadful two weeks that has seen City lose to West Ham in the league, Newcastle in the League Cup and then CSKA in Europe.
Manchester United also has a crisis — in central defense — which is hampering its hopes of bouncing back from its worst 10-game start to a Premier League season with a win at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday.
United manager Louis van Gaal is without the injured Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones, the suspended Chris Smalling and also likely Jonny Evans, who hasn't played since Sept. 21 because of injury.
United ended the derby with a center-back combination of central midfielder Michael Carrick and 19-year-old Paddy McNair and could persist with that pairing, although youngster Tyler Blackett could also come into consideration.
With 13 points from 10 games, 10th-place United hasn't made such a poor start to a league season since 1986 — when Ron Atkinson was fired and replaced by Alex Ferguson.
The 20-time champions will be big favorites against Palace, which has not won in four games.
After a slow start, Alexis Sanchez is showing just why Arsenal spent 35 million pounds ($60 million) to buy him from Barcelona this summer.
The Chile forward has scored five goals in his last three games, and 11 overall in his debut season at Emirates Stadium.
"He's a good leader and something that we haven't had in the Arsenal team before," Arsenal winger Theo Walcott said. "He's a dream to play with."
With Walcott back after 10 months out with knee-ligament damage and Danny Welbeck settling in quickly after his deadline-day move from Man United, Arsenal is looking a potent attacking force once again, scoring at least two goals in its last five matches.
Defensively, the team is suspect, though. Arsenal threw away a 3-0 lead after 60 minutes to draw 3-3 with Anderlecht in the Champions League on Tuesday and is hoping center back Laurent Koscielny will be fit again for the trip to Swansea on Saturday.
Arsenal is fourth in the standings.
Second-place Southampton continues to confound the doubters and will go for a fifth straight win in all competitions when it hosts Leicester on Saturday.
Also Saturday, fifth-place West Ham is at home to Aston Villa, which has lost six games in a row, and last-place Burnley seeks its first win of the season at home against Hull.
On Sunday, it's: Sunderland vs. Everton; Tottenham vs. Stoke; and West Bromwich vs. Newcastle.
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