Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and Newcastle boss Steve McClaren face another nerve-wracking weekend on the touchline as they fight increasingly desperate battles to avoid the sack.
Rodgers has come under fire from Liverpool’s usually loyal fans after a woeful run of form which has left his side languishing in 13th place in the Premier League.
The Reds have gone four league games without a win, a dispiriting sequence that included heavy defeats against Manchester United and West Ham, and on Wednesday they suffered the indignity of being taken to a penalty shoot-out by fourth tier minnows Carlisle.
Although they eventually won that League Cup tie, the lacklustre display did little to ease the growing scrutiny on Rodgers, with Liverpool forced to deny reports which claimed they had approached former Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti about taking over at Anfield.
Most damningly, Liverpool have not scored more than once in a match so far this season and that failure to adhere to the club’s attacking principles is in danger of costing Rodgers the support of the Kop.
Without a trophy in his three-year reign, Rodgers badly needs a series of dynamic displays to silence the critics, starting when Aston Villa visit Merseyside on Saturday.
“I understand the frustration (of fans). We want to win and we’re trying everything possible to win and to win in style,” Liverpool goalkeeper Adam Bogdan said.
“We all know the Villa game is massive. The final touch is missing for us at the moment but it will come. I really hope it comes on Saturday.”
Rodgers’ plight is mirrored on Tyneside, where McClaren is already losing the support of the locals just eight games into his reign.
The former England manager, hired from Derby in the close-season, has watched his side slump to second bottom of the table after failing to win any of their first six matches.
Then to make matters worse, Newcastle suffered their fourth successive defeat in all competitions as they crashed out of the League Cup against an under-strength Sheffield Wednesday in midweek.
With Chelsea arriving at St James’ on Saturday, the chorus of disapproval could yet grow in volume, but McClaren is adamant a victory over Jose Mourinho’s men would dramatically improve the febrile atmosphere threatening to engulf the club.
“Do we fear it? Do we say we don’t want to play in that? We have got to. We have got to get people ready for Saturday, ready to fight, and one result turns it around,” McClaren said.
“You have got to say and you have got to believe — which I do — that could be Saturday.”
McClaren’s cause will be helped by the absence of Chelsea striker Diego Costa, who is serving a suspension following his retrospective punishment for tangling with Laurent Koscielny in the win over Arsenal last weekend.
And after taking just seven points from their opening six games, Chelsea can ill-afford to let Newcastle get back on track.
Elsewhere on Saturday, leaders Manchester City travel to Tottenham looking to extend their impressive recent record of three wins from their last four visits to White Hart Lane.
Consecutive defeats against Juventus and West Ham had pierced City’s confidence, but they got back on track by crushing Sunderland in the League Cup.
“It was important to win. Maybe we didn’t deserve to lose the two games that we lost, but we did, so it was important not to continue in that way,” City boss Manuel Pellegrini said.
Second placed Manchester United, two points behind their local rivals, host Sunderland with boss Louis van Gaal trying to play down expectations surrounding Anthony Martial after the young French striker scored his fourth goal in as many matches.
Martial’s strike against Ipswich in United’s League Cup stroll maintained his blistering start since his move from Monaco.
But van Gaal said: “He is a player who is very modest and he knows he can score because of his fellow players.
“We are happy with him but still we have to keep our feet on the ground.”
Leicester face a stern test of the league’s last unbeaten record when they face Arsenal at the King Power Stadium.
Tottenham v Manchester City
Leicester v Arsenal
Liverpool v Aston Villa
Manchester United v Sunderland
Southampton v Swansea
Stoke v Bournemouth
West Ham v Norwich
Newcastle v Chelsea
Watford v Crystal Palace