Brendan Rodgers is hopeful that his Liverpool team have turned the corner after following up a vital Champions League draw at Ludogorets with a first Premier League win in over a month against Stoke City on Saturday. The Pressure had been mounting on Rodgers following a dismal start to the season that had seen the runners up from last term lose half of their first 12 league matches and sit on the verge of elimination from the Champions League. But they now go into Tuesday’s meeting with Leicester at the King Power Stadium just five points adrift from the top four and knowing that a win at home against Basel next week will continue their participation in this year’s Champions League.
“We have hopefully turned the corner during the week in terms of our performance level and getting that result,” Rodgers said, reports Liverpool’s official website. “It was very important for us and something that pleased me greatly.
“The important thing, for me, is to arrive into the second part of the season either in there or not too far away, knowing that we'll be strong. That's still our objective. What has been pleasing in the last couple of games is that the steel and determination has returned to the team - that gives you a great platform to build your fluency and football.”
While Liverpool have returned to winning ways, much of the talk around Anfield has surrounded one of the players not in the starting lineup against Stoke -- captain Steven Gerrard. The 34-year-old’s role in the team has been a source of speculation throughout the season, with Gerrard having previously played every minute for Liverpool in the Premier League but struggling largely in a holding-midfield berth. The situation has been further enflamed by Gerrard having yet to extend his contract beyond the end of the current season. Talk of a rift between Rodgers and Gerrard has been brushed off by both men, with the Liverpool boss stating that his captain has been offered a new deal and deserves time to consider it.
“For Steven, for everything he's done in the 16 years he’s been here, he's a man that deserves the utmost respect and should be given that time to consider it, because it's a big move,” he said in his press conference on Monday. “I love working with Steven Gerrard, he’s arguably the best player who’s ever played in the premier league. I’ve enjoyed every single minute of working with him here and I hope that continues.”
Weighing up whether to bring Gerrard back into the starting lineup is just one of the selection dilemmas Rodgers now faces. Against Stoke, only Rickie Lambert of the club’s eight summer signings began the match, with the likes of Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno and Adam Lallana relegated to the bench.
While Liverpool have shown signs of life, Leicester continue to head in the opposite direction. After a fine start to the campaign that culminated in a 5-3 win over Manchester United, last season’s Championship winners have taken just two points from their last eight matches. A 3-2 defeat to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday saw Leicester drop to the bottom of the Premier League and previously lauded coach Nigel Pearson move up the sack race table. Still, the former rugged defender was keen to focus on the positives after the weekend’s loss, particularly as it saw his side end a run of five matches without scoring. Their efforts to find the net once more against Liverpool could be compromised by a knock to the ankle of last-season’s top scorer David Nugent that makes him a doubt for Tuesday.
Prediction: Liverpool’s performance against Stoke was still far from convincing, but, having got the three points and kept a clean sheet, there should be a much-needed injection of positive energy throughout the squad. With a team drawn almost entirely from last season’s successful squad, Liverpool got back to basics and the same approach could be enough to see them past a struggling Leicester side on Tuesday. Far from the team that mounted a spectacular comeback to romp past Manchester United in September, the realities of the Premier League are setting in for Leicester and another frustrating defeat could be on the cards.
Leicester 0-1 Liverpool
Kickoff time: 2.45 p.m. EST
TV channel: NBC Sports Premier League Live Extra
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra