Liverpool turn focus to the pitch

As the Premier League returns after the international break, Liverpool hope to boost their season against Sunderland.

    Liverpool turn focus to the pitch
    Liverpool's only point this season came from a 2-2 draw against reigning champions Manchester City [EPA]

    After securing an emotional, long-awaited triumph off the pitch this week, Liverpool need a victory on it against Sunderland on Saturday to revive the team's fortunes following their worst start to a season in 50 years.

    The release of secret papers into the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster in which 96 Liverpool fans were killed exonerated the club from any blame for the crush, instead pointing the finger at police malpractice and corruption.

    Families of the victims and the club itself waited 23 years for the truth to come out, and some players and manager Brendan Rodgers attended a vigil on Wednesday to pay their respects.

    Rodgers, in his first season at the fallen English giants, now needs to turn his focus to the pitch, with his side third from bottom in the English Premier League after picking up just one point from their opening three games.

    "You have to take the bigger picture into consideration. Liverpool are just settling down. After 11 or 12 games you'll start to see a picture developing in the league itself, never mind Liverpoo"

    Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill

    Not since 1962 has Liverpool began a campaign so poorly, with a shortage of options in attack alongside Uruguay striker Luis Suarez widely regarded as their major problem.

    "We're faithful and confident that things are going to come good for us,'' said Wales midfielder Joe Allen, who followed Rodgers in joining Liverpool from Swansea this summer.

    "We've got too much ability and talent in the team for it not to.''

    Sunderland, though, have been a tough proposition at home since Martin O'Neill took over as manager in December, while Liverpool's next game is at home to fierce rivals Manchester United. Turning things around won't be easy for Rodgers.

    O'Neill said reports of Liverpool's demise have been exaggerated.

    "It's the nature of the game these days,'' he said.

    "You can take any set of results - even three hours out of a 10-game period - and say something in particular happened during that time.

    "You have to take the bigger picture into consideration. Liverpool are just settling down. After 11 or 12 games you'll start to see a picture developing in the league itself, never mind Liverpool.''

    Chelsea top

    The point Liverpool have earned this season came against Manchester City, the only time the defending champions have failed to win in the league.

    City are one of three teams to lie two points behind early leaders Chelsea, and could be boosted by the return of leading striker Sergio Aguero for Saturday's trip to Stoke.

    If Aguero is declared fit after nearly a month out with a knee injury, he could join in-form Carlos Tevez in an all-Argentine frontline. Italy forward Mario Balotelli is available again after undergoing laser eye surgery during the international break.

    The spotlight will be on Stoke's choice of attackers, too, with former England striker Michael Owen in line for his first start following his free transfer to the midlands club after being released by United.

        Shake or not to shake? John Terry was cleared of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand in July [GALLO/GETTY] 

    The injury-prone Owen made only four appearances for United last season and said he may have outstayed his welcome at Old Trafford.

    "I was on the bench a lot of the time, but then when the manager says, 'You have a big role to play and we want you to stay for another year,' it was great to hear that from someone like Sir Alex Ferguson,'' Owen said.

    "In hindsight, probably with that extra year, it might have been better if I had moved in many ways... I want to perform and I want to finish my career on a real high. I'm still only 32 and I still feel as if I have a lot left in me.''

    Chelsea visit local rivals Queens Park Rangers, when much of the focus will be on what happens before kickoff.

    Chelsea captain John Terry comes face to face with Anton Ferdinand for the first time since being cleared in court of racially abusing the QPR defender in a league match in October last year.

    Ferdinand may snub Terry in the prematch handshake, which was scrapped twice for Chelsea-QPR matches last season on legal advice.

    Fifth-place United hosts Wigan, with Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher back in Alex Ferguson's squad after nearly a year out with a chronic bowel condition. Netherlands striker Robin van Persie and Japan playmaker Shinji Kagawa are available, too, despite picking up minor knocks on international duty this week.

    Arsenal are at home to last-place Southampton as they look to build on their impressive 2-0 win at Liverpool before the international break.



    Cricket World Cup 2019 Quiz: How many runs can you score?

    Cricket World Cup 2019 Quiz: How many runs can you score?

    Pick your team and answer as many correct questions in three minutes.

    Visualising every Saudi coalition air raid on Yemen

    Visualising every Saudi coalition air raid on Yemen

    Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Arab states have launched more than 19,278 air raids across Yemen.

    Remembering Chernobyl

    Remembering Chernobyl

    The fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion remains as politicised as ever, 28 years on.