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Liverpool facing crunch tie against bug-ridden Stoke

BRENDAN Rogers faces a Premier League turning point against Stoke City, under assault from friendly fire and a growing chorus of critics.

A point behind Stoke heading into the weekend and clearly in danger of dropping into a permanent mid-table slot, Rodgers has been soaking up unkind words from all directions, starting close to home with Jamie Carrager and from as far away as Madrid and Carlo Ancellotti.

Of all the barbs, Ancelotti's will cut deepest, suggesting that Liverpool could be in better physical condition and will struggle because of it against Basel when the Champions League resumes in two weeks' time.

The most annoying will be Bruce Grobbelaar's wild suggestion that Rodgers has three weeks to save his job. But there is little doubt that pressure is increasing steadily and he badly needs a break.

That may well have arrived in the form of a virulent bug which is halting operations at Stoke's training ground and forced first team regulars to stay in bed.

"Asmir Begovic, Geoff Cameron and Phil Bardsley reported that they were feeling unwell with sickness. We're not quite sure where it's come from. We thought we had got over it," said Hughes.

He had better news about Marc Wilson, who returned to full training this week and is a candidate for the trip to Anfield: "Mark and Erik have trained this week and so I'm hopeful on them."

Team-mate Glenn Whelan is looking forward to Anfield and a big game.

"We know these are going to be tough games, but they are the games we all want to be playing in. As players and as a team, these are the stadiums you would love to be playing in week-in, week-out.

"There's no pressure on us because no-one on the outside expects us to get a result, but we are looking to get something."