Liverpool and Chelsea search for form as World Cup interlude looms

Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool v Leeds United - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - October 29, 2022 Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp applauds fans after the match REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

LONDON, Nov 3 (Reuters) - When the Premier League season began in August, the idea that Liverpool would be heading towards the World Cup break closer to the bottom three than top four would have seemed unthinkable.

But as Juergen Klopp's misfiring side prepare for Sunday's trip to third-placed Tottenham Hotspur that is exactly the position they are in points wise.

Klopp, at least is in good company when it comes to high-profile managers trying to halt worrying slides.

Graham Potter's Chelsea host leaders Arsenal on Sunday with his honeymoon period well and truly over after last week's humiliating 4-1 defeat at his old club Brighton & Hove Albion left them down in sixth place.

Liverpool's predicament is the most surprising though.

Last week's 2-1 home defeat by Leeds United, after the loss at Nottingham Forest the week before, means Liverpool, the only side able to challenge Manchester City in recent seasons, are ninth, 10 points behind Spurs and 15 adrift of Arsenal.

LIVERPOOL DECLINE

Injuries and a relative lack of investment in the squad in the close season have been factors in Liverpool's decline, but some of their problems are self-inflicted and the intensity with which they are usually renowned for under Klopp has disappeared.

Leeds's opening goal last week rather summed up Liverpool's current plight. A terrible back pass by Joe Gomez and a slip by keeper Alisson gave Rodrigo the easiest goal he will ever score.

Then even when Liverpool took charge in the second half their end product was sadly lacking and they wasted a host of opportunities before Crysencio Summerville's sucker punch.

A trip to injury-hit Tottenham offers Liverpool the perfect opportunity to remind people they are not yet a busted flush.

Spurs claimed top spot in their Champions League group on Tuesday but it came at a cost as South Korea forward Son Heung-min suffered a facial injury that needs surgery, meaning Antonio Conte is running short of attacking options.

Brazil striker Richarlison remains unavailable as does winger Dejan Kulusevski, while defender Cristian Romero is also on the sidelines for Tottenham with muscle fatigue.

CHELSEA SLUMP

Like Liverpool, Chelsea managed a morale-boosting victory in the Champions League in midweek to top their group but how they needed it after a slump in their domestic form.

Successive draws with Brentford and Manchester United were followed by the debacle at Brighton to end Potter's unbeaten start and if he did not realise it already, he now knows the level of scrutiny he will be under in the Chelsea hot seat.

Sunday would be a good time for former Arsenal forward Pierre Emerick Aubameyang to justify his move to Stamford Bridge from Barcelona while Raheem Sterling, despite scoring in midweek against Dinamo Zagreb, has still to win over the majority of Chelsea fans after his move from Manchester City.

Defeat would leave Chelsea 13 points behind an Arsenal side who are looking more and more capable of at least making Manchester City battle for a fifth title in six seasons.

Arsenal's 5-0 hammering of Nottingham Forest kept them two points above City who can return to the top on Saturday when goal machine Erling Haaland is set to return at home to Fulham.

Fourth-placed Newcastle United travel to Southampton on Sunday, while Manchester United, in fifth, go to Aston Villa where Unai Emery begins his second stint as a Premier League manager having replaced Steven Gerrard.

Emery, who has enjoyed great success with Sevilla and Villarreal, will have a point to prove after his less than impressive stint at Arsenal.

Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris

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