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With Liverpool in freefall, critics turn sights from Mario Balotelli to coach Brendan Rodgers

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It was barely a month ago that the scoring drought of Mario Balotelli was being cited as the chief reason for Liverpool's problems this season.

Now, the critics are turning their sights away from the maverick Italian and fixing them on manager Brendan Rodgers.

"A few months ago I was manager of the year," Rodgers said Friday, "and now I am favorite to get the sack."

Lauded for reviving one of England's great clubs and steering Liverpool to an unexpected title push last season, Rodgers has found life at Anfield a whole lot tougher over the last four months.

After 12 matches in the Premier League, Liverpool is in 12th place and without a win in four games. The team has won just one of its last eight matches in all competitions and needs a victory in its final Champions League group game against FC Basel to qualify for the last 16.

There are problems throughout the team.

Deprived of the departed Luis Suarez and with Daniel Sturridge out injured since August, the vibrancy and spark that marked Liverpool's attacking play last season has disappeared. Balotelli was signed as the big-name replacement for Suarez but he is yet to score in the Premier League and is currently out injured.

PHOTO: Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers watches during the English Premier League soccer match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park stadium in London, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers watches during the English Premier League soccer match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park stadium in London, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Liverpool's defense continues to be shaky, keeping just two clean sheets in 19 matches this season, and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has been under scrutiny, with his latest mistake coming in the 2-2 draw with Ludogorets Razgrad in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Rodgers spent more than 100 million pounds ($156 million) over the summer, using the proceeds from the sale of Suarez to Barcelona, but not one of his big-money signings has worked out — yet.

The goodwill from Rodgers' impressive first two years in charge at Anfield is fading fast.

"It's a different challenge because everything has been hunky-dory for about 18 months and on the up," Rodgers said. "But it's a different deck of cards we have this year. It's a different hand that we have been dealt.

"We haven't been on a good run but let that be the making of us. In sport, you get the chance to go again."

Some believe Rodgers won't be given time.

One British bookmaker has odds of 4-1 for the Northern Irishman to be the next Premier League manager to lose his job. Former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar told the BBC that Rodgers has three weeks to turn things around, otherwise the club's American owners — Fenway Sports Group — could act.

"It's part and parcel of this wonderful life working in football," said Rodgers, speaking ahead of Saturday's league game against Stoke. "Very short-termism thinking. All you can do is focus on the immediate job."

If the Premier League reaches Dec. 7 without a managerial change, it will be the third-longest period from the start of a season without a coach moving jobs.

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