Swansea City plot to give Brendan Rodgers a hard time at Liverpool
BRENDAN Rodgers had a grumble this week about the timing of Liverpool's rearranged game with Swansea City.
Sunday's game should have been taking place in eight days' time, but the date had to be changed because of Liverpool's progress in Europe.
As a result the fixture was put back 24 hours, and Rodgers was happy enough.
But then came a second alteration.
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Swansea could not head for Merseyside next weekend because they have a date in North London.
Rodgers's old team are off to Wembley for the Capital One Cup final, of course, so the Liverpool game was brought forward to this Sunday.
There is some irony here, for Rodgers swapped Swansea for Liverpool in the entirely understandable belief that the Reds were more likely to challenge for silverware.
Yet not even nine months since the Northern Irishman said farewell to South Wales, Liverpool have had to shift a fixture because Swansea have made it to a major final.
Rodgers, of course, hopes his time will come on Merseyside.
His maiden season as Liverpool's manager has not been an easy one.
There have been good signs, with some bright performances and decent results, but Liverpool are out of both domestic cup competitions and there is still a long way to go before they can start thinking about triumphing in the Europa League.
In the Premier League, meantime, Liverpool are a whopping 12 points adrift of the Champions League places with only12 fixtures to come.
There has been a lot of talk about finishing the season in the top four, but it would take something extraordinary from here on in for Rodgers's team to make it.
And in truth it would be hard to argue that Liverpool deserve Champions League qualification when you consider that they have not beaten any other top-half Premier League club all season.
Rodgers's unfancied Swansea side toppled Manchester City, Arsenal, Fulham and West Brom last term — plus Liverpool on the final day, of course.
Yet even if they have come close — like at City a couple of weeks back — Liverpool have not got the better of any of the top teams since Rodgers took the reins, and that is a statistic that must change if he is to thrive at Anfield.
Liverpool could start the job this weekend.
Swansea are not one of the Premier League's giants, of course, but they are a top-half team.
In fact they are one point and two places better off than their hosts this Sunday after that comprehensive victory over Queens Park Rangers last Saturday.
Liverpool were expected to go back in front of Swansea when an out- of-form West Bromwich Albion side visited on Monday night.
But despite controlling long periods of the game, Rodgers's men did not take charge of the scoreboard.
And after Steven Gerrard's penalty was saved by the inspired Ben Foster, Albion struck two late goals to end an eight-game winless run.
Liverpool looked to be on the up through much of December and January, when they chalked up eight victories from 11 games in all competitions.
But they were embarrassed by Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup and, after creditable draws at the Emirates and the Etihad, the Baggies defeat left Rodgers and Co licking their wounds.
"We were bitterly disappointed after West Brom," Swansea old boy Joe Allen conceded.
"This club is about success."
Allen has admitted struggling for his best form of late, and has lost his place in recent weeks having been a regular in the early part of the Rodgers reign.
The Liberty youth product made an impressive start to life as a Red, but he has not yet justified his £15 million price tag.
The same goes for another former Swan, Fabio Borini, who has struggled with injury and has not managed a league goal since his £10 million switch from Roma.
Rodgers has won praise for his willingness to use young players in the Liverpool first team, and the likes of Raheem Sterling and Andre Wisdom have made big strides under his stewardship.
But he needs more from his big-money signings, for managers are always rated on the quality of their recruits.
At least Daniel Sturridge has hit the ground running since his £12 million switch from Chelsea last month.
Liverpool were in desperate need of attacking reinforcements having relied almost exclusively on Luis Suarez for the first half of this campaign.
Sturridge's signing was viewed as something of a gamble given his failure to nail down a place at Stamford Bridge, but the England man's start to life in the red jersey suggests Rodgers has made a shrewd move.
Sturridge has scored four times in his six appearances for his new club and, though he missed the West Brom defeat with a thigh injury, he has a decent chance of featuring this weekend.
That could be bad news for Swansea, for Sturridge and Suarez — already dubbed the SAS — have the quality to give any defence issues when on song.
And Michael Laudrup has problems at the back — with Chico Flores absent, he must decide whether to deploy Garry Monk or Kyle Bartley alongside Ashley Williams in central defence.
But Williams and Monk were in tandem at the back for the tail-end of the game in October when Swansea knocked Liverpool out of the League Cup.
Even when players have been missing this season, Swansea have proved themselves capable of chalking up results.
And unlike the home side, they can play without pressure this weekend.
Swansea will have the weight of expectation on their shoulders at Wembley.
But for now they can enjoy the life of the underdog.