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Liverpool look for winning formula against Aston Villa

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Brendan Rodgers' expensively assembled side is languishing at the bottom end of the English Premier League. Reuters/Craig Brough

Two years ago Liverpool's dashing troika of stikers Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge were tearing into Premier League defences. Of the trident, only Sturridge remains and he is returning to action from persistent injuries. His new partners Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino have failed to set the division alight.


Benteke will miss the game against his old club through injury. Firmino too is on the sick list and his absence could hardly have arrived at a more inopportune time for Rodgers.

The attacker has yet to score since his 40 million euro move to Merseyside and it has heightened the pressure on manager Brendan Rodgers.

But he put a brave face on his side's travails on Friday as they prepared to take on fellow strugglers Aston Villa at Anfield on Saturday afternoon.

The 42-year-old made light of title winning managers Jurgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti being linked with his job.

Klopp, who claimed two Bundesliga championships with Borussia Dortmund before leaving for a year long football free sabbatical, is rumoured to be open to an earlier than expected return to top line management.

Ancelotti, who left Real Madrid, after leading them to a 10th European Cup, is continually associated with the leading jobs in Europe.

"I think when you're a manager of a club of Liverpool's size there's always going to be speculation around your job and of course if you're not winning games that will intensify.

"But in the three years that I've been at Anfield there's been at least 10 names linked to the job."

However, Rodgers will be the first to admit that there wasn't any talk about other people during the 2013-14 season. His side containing a dazzling trio of Suarez, Sterling and  Sturridge skewered most of the Premier League defences as the team scored 100 goals.

Only defensive naievety in games against Chelsea at Anfield and Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park ultimately robbed them of vital points as they battled at the end of the season for their first top flight title since 1990.

Manchester City pipped them to the crown and in the subsequent summer Suarez left for Barcelona for 80 million euros.

The Uruguayan's three years at Anfield were a bizarre melange of controversy - he was banned for biting Branislav Ivanovic and racially abusing Patrice Evra — and pyrotechnics - he scored 31 league goals in the prelude to his departure.

“Luis is a very special talent,” said Rodgers as he prepared to lose the services of Suarez. “I think he would be the first to accept he has improved as a player while he's been at Anfield. But if there is one thing the history of this great club teaches us, it is that Liverpool are bigger than any individual.”

That is wishful thinking.

The cash from Suarez's sale was invested in Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren from Southampton as Rodgers tried to refashion his side around Sterling and Sturridge for the 2014/15 season.

But with Sturridge succumbing to injury, Sterling's head was turned by the overtures of Manchester City.

He left for the Etihad Stadium after a rancorous 55 million transfer. Rodgers has spent that cash on recruiting Nathaniel Clyne from Southampton, Christian Benteke from Aston Villa, Danny Ings from Burnley and the Brazil international Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim.

The 23-year-old will sit out the clash with Villa through injury. He will have a scan to discover whether he fractured a bone in his back during Wednesday night's League Cup game against Carlisle United.

Though Liverpool advanced to the last 16 of the competition, they needed a penalty shoot out against a team from the fourth division of English football in order to progress.

"I've never been complacent enough to think that my job's never been in danger," said Rodgers. "That's what drives a manager on - that fear, positive fear.

"But it doesn't frighten me. I've got an inherent belief in what I do but I don't shy away from the fact that you need to get results and be performing well to try and stay and work."