Joe Allen says under-fire Brendan Rodgers will keep Reds on track
Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen is adamant boss Brendan Rodgers can cope with the mounting criticism of his spluttering team.
Liverpool: Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen is adamant boss Brendan Rodgers can cope with the mounting criticism of his spluttering team.
Rodgers` side stopped a run of four successive defeats with a 2-2 draw at Ludogorets Razgrad in the Champions League on Wednesday.
On face value it was hardly a result to hint at a sudden uplift in fortunes, particularly as Rodgers` men failed to hold onto a lead and conceded a late equaliser from a set-piece, which has been one of their weaknesses this season.
But the point gained in Bulgaria means Liverpool know a victory at Anfield in their final group game next month will take them into the knock-out stages of the competition.
That would come as a welcome lift for Rodgers, although he knows his side need to take a significant haul of points from their next three Premier League games, before the visit of Basel on December 9, to climb up from their current lowly position of 12th.
Stoke, a point better off in 11th, are the visitors to Anfield on Saturday before Liverpool face Leicester and Sunderland, who have won only four league games between them.
Rodgers needs some positive results to take into the make-or-break Champions League tie to kill off increasing speculation about his own position.
But Allen insists the manager can cope with the pressure and says the players remain fully committed to helping him revive Liverpool`s campaign.
"Brendan is handling it fine. He wouldn`t be Liverpool manager if he couldn`t handle it," Allen said.
"He has the backing of all the players and he knows that. It`s up to us as players to turn it around.
"As a professional footballer you are always dealing with that pressure and expectation.
"It`s not been an ideal start to the season but I have confidence in this squad that we`ve got the ability and the quality to turn it around."
Reds striker Mario Balotelli remains a fitness doubt after missing Liverpool`s last two games with a groin injury, while Rodgers faces a couple of other selection issues.
Kolo Toure has done a solid job in his limited opportunities at centre-back and may get a start ahead of pre-season signing Dejan Lovren, who has struggled for form since joining from Southampton.
And Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva also took his chance against Ludogorets with a decent performance which might earn him a start against Stoke to again free captain Steven Gerrard to a more advanced role.
Meanwhile, Stoke`s plans for the trip to Anfield have been thrown into chaos by a sickness bug sweeping through the camp.
Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and utility player Geoff Cameron both missed training on Thursday, while right back Phil Bardsley was sent home as a precaution.
In addition a number of academy players were struck down by the illness forcing the club to perform a deep clean of their training ground on Thursday.
"We`re struggling to contain it somewhat," said manager Mark Hughes.
"The under-21s were hit by it earlier in the week. We tried to deal with it there and then.
"We closed their operation down to such an extent they haven`t been in or around the building for the last three days, and they won`t be in tomorrow either.
"Unfortunately today Asmir Begovic, Geoff Cameron and Phil Bardsley reported they were feeling unwell with sickness.
"Phil came in and was quite prepared to train, but under the circumstances we felt he was better served by returning home.
"Asmir was ill overnight and didn`t report in, and Geoff was sick when he came into the building, so he went straight back.
"It could be the time of the year, something that`s around. We tried to sanitise the building on Wednesday, we went right through it."