LONDON: Liverpool’s perfect start to the Premier League season is under threat from an in-form Leicester City led by a manager with a point to prove at Anfield in Brendan Rodgers.
The European champions have a five-point lead at the top of the table over Manchester City, but Leicester are the closest challengers to the top two as they aim to break the glass ceiling of the top six.
The Foxes’ chances have been aided by the early-season struggles of Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.
All four have winnable fixtures to get back on track this weekend, but Spurs are most in need of a lift after a 7-2 Champions League mauling by Bayern Munich in midweek.
Rodgers returns to Anfield for the first time since he was sacked by the Reds in 2015. The Northern Irishman has since rebuilt his reputation, winning seven trophies in two-and-a-half seasons at Celtic before making the move back to the Premier League with the Foxes in February.
Since Rodgers replaced Claude Puel, Leicester have the third-best record in the league behind relentless Liverpool and defending champions City.
A 5-0 thrashing of Newcastle United last weekend saw Rodgers’s men open up a two-point lead on the chasing pack in third and they have shown their ability to test the traditional top six with a 1-1 draw at Chelsea and 2-1 victory over Tottenham already this season.
However, Rodgers knows ending Liverpool’s unbeaten run at home in the Premier League since April 2017 is a much tougher challenge.
“We just want to continue with our performance level. Liverpool are on an incredible run, they are great opponents to test and challenge the quality of our team,” said Rodgers. “We’re bringing a real positive mindset into our games, no matter who the opponent is.”
Rodgers came agonisingly close to ending Liverpool’s long wait to win the league in the 2013/14, but said he feels no bitterness about Jurgen Klopp’s success with the Reds, so much so he rents his house to the German.
“I was never going to be bitter,” Rodgers told the Telegraph. “That’s why I let Jurgen move into my house.”
There will be plenty of attention also on sixth-placed Tottenham on Saturday when they travel to Brighton and Hove Albion still reeling from a hammering by Bayern on Tuesday.
It was manager Mauricio Pochettino’s worst result in charge of Tottenham and added weight to the argument that the Argentine’s project in north London may have stalled.
He has faced some massive games in his five seasons in charge but, after a club-record home defeat, none have felt bigger than Saturday’s tricky trip to the Sussex coast.
Manchester United, currently 10th, are at Newcastle on Sunday while Chelsea travel to Southampton, fourth-placed Arsenal welcome Bournemouth and Manchester City are at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Watford, in last place and the only team without a win, are at home to Sheffield United.
Fixtures (all times GMT):
Saturday: Brighton & Hove Albion v Tottenham Hotspur (1130), Burnley v Everton, Liverpool v Leicester City, Norwich City v Aston Villa, Watford v Sheffield United (all 1400), West Ham United v Crystal Palace (1630).
Sunday: Southampton v Chelsea, Arsenal v Bournemouth, Manchester City v Wolverhampton Wandereres (all 1300), Newcastle United v Manchester United (1530).
Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2019