By Toby Davis
Pressure is something that Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says comes with the territory, but after a dismal run, the odds on him becoming the season’s first managerial casualty are swiftly shortening.
Rodgers’ side face Aston Villa at Anfield on Saturday (5pm) with the voices of dissenting fans starting to make themselves heard following a four-game winless Premier League streak that has left them seven points behind leaders Manchester City after six games.
The Liverpool boss is a now second favourite with bookmakers to be the first managerial sacking of the new campaign with only rock-bottom Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat keeping him off top spot.
Last Sunday’s home draw with Norwich City came on the back of a Europa League draw with Bordeaux, consecutive defeats to Manchester United and West Ham and a goalless stalemate at Arsenal.
They seemed to hit a new low, however, on Wednesday when they were taken to penalties after a dismal home draw with fourth tier Carlisle United in the League Cup, before scraping into the fourth round.
Rodgers will also not need reminding that Villa have become something of a bogey team to Liverpool in recent seasons with the Merseysiders failing to beat Saturday’s opponents at Anfield since 2010.
They were also beaten in last season’s FA Cup semi-final by Tim Sherwood’s side, one of a series of below-par performances with which Liverpool ended the campaign.
Should Liverpool fail to beat Villa, the clarion call from disgruntled supporters for Rodgers to be replaced will increase in volume with Jurgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti among the names being touted as potential successors.
Rodgers’ hopes of victory have not been helped by a hamstring injury to Belgian Christian Benteke, who they signed from Sherwood’s side in the close season, after he was brought off at half-time against Norwich.
All of last season’s top four are in action on Saturday, with leaders Manchester City visiting Tottenham Hotspur in the early kickoff (2.45pm) looking to rebound after loosing their 100 per cent record at home to West Ham last weekend.
Having thumped Sunderland 4-1 in the League Cup on Tuesday, Manuel Pellegrini’s side could be further boosted by the return from injury of captain Vincent Kompany and playmaker David Silva.
City’s local rivals Manchester United are currently second, two points behind the leaders, and host beleaguered Sunderland (5pm), who have not won all season and have two points from their six games.
Champions Chelsea returned to winning ways by beating Arsenal last weekend, but they will be without Diego Costa for their visit to Newcastle United (7.30pm) after the striker was handed a retrospective three-game ban for tangling with Laurent Koscielny.
Arsenal visit the only unbeaten side left in the Premier League, Leicester City (5pm), and they will be able to field defender Gabriel, after his red card against Chelsea was overturned on appeal.