Liverpool’s perfect start to the Premier League season is under threat from an in-form Leicester 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, 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.
No hard feelings
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 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.”
Seventh hell for Spurs
Tottenham’s second-half capitulation to German giants Bayern on Tuesday has raised questions over whether Mauricio Pochettino can turn the tide in his sixth season in charge after a dramatic dip in form over the past eight months.
Spurs have now won just three of their opening 10 games to the season and have lost 13 of their past 28 matches stretching back to February.
Pochettino called for unity after Tottenham’s worst-ever home defeat in Europe, but to get the fans back onside they need a quick response against a Brighton side that have not won since the opening day of the season.
Not so United
Despite their stuttering start, Tottenham are still two points better off than Manchester United in the race for a top-four finish, with the Red Devils off to their worst league start for 30 years.
A trip to Newcastle ought to bring some relief for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Magpies are in turmoil on and off the field. St James’s Park has seen swathes of empty seats for the first time in years as supporters protest against Mike Ashley’s ownership of the club, while manager Steve Bruce accused his players of “a complete surrender” in losing four second-half goals to Leicester last weekend.
However, even against such demoralised opponents, there are no longer any guarantees for Manchester United on the road.
Solskjaer’s men have not won away from home in 10 games stretching back to March.
Saturday: Brighton vs Tottenham, Burnley vs Everton, Liverpool vs Leicester, Norwich vs Aston Villa, Watford vs Sheffield United, West Ham vs Crystal Palace
Sunday: Southampton vs Chelsea, Arsenal vs Bournemouth, Man City vs Wolves, Newcastle vs Man United