Liverpool will be hoping to put a miserable opening weekend behind them and get some points on the board in front of an expectant Anfield Crowd.
There wasn’t a goal scored in either of the reds clashes with Stoke City last season – 4 wasted points that would have been enough to land Liverpool the title.
The home draw early in the season was disappointing. Steven Gerrard ‘scored’ his 100th Liverpool goal – only for it to be disallowed by the referee. It was arguably Liverpool’s most convincing draw of the season – the reds had 30 chances on the Stoke goal in 93 minutes (and over 75% of the possession) but both Keane and Torres were at their most wasteful.
The away draw in January was an entirely different affair and this time it was Liverpool who can count themselves lucky to have left the game with a point.
Head to head
Liverpool – 60
Stoke – 26
Draw – 32
Liverpool – 46
Stoke – 3
Draw – 11
Liverpool’s defence is paper thin. After the non-replacement of Sami Hyypia – the reds have Agger (back) and Aurelio (knee) out for at least a month. Martin Skrtel will face a late fitness test after Jamie Carragher attempted to headbutt his skull off his neck against Spurs and is a serious doubt. The reds may call on Daniel Ayala who came on as a sub against Spurs. Jamie Carragher is likely to play despite needing several stitches in his head after colliding with the jaw of Skrtel.
Aquilani and El Zhar are also out injured.
Stoke are not as seriously depleted by injuries, with Amdy Faye (back) and Mamady Sidibe (knee) being their only concerns. Neither are expected to be ready for the trip to Anfield.
Liverpool had a miserable opening weekend – going down to a 2-1 defeat at Spurs – our third consecutive defeat at White Hart Lane. Spurs were one of only two teams to have beaten us last season. Liverpool played abysmally and Torres and Gerrard both looked lethargic.
Stoke meanwhile got off to a good start at home – defeating Premier League new boys Burnley 2-0. Defender Ryan Shawcross, a potential target for Liverpool, got the Potters first goal. Nobody needs telling about Stoke and their excellent set-pieces. Rory Delap hasn’t forgotten how to take a throw-in (unfortunately) and both of Stoke’s weekend goals arrived via set pieces.
Liverpool – (from) Reina, Cavalieri, Ayala, Kelly, Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher, Insua, Dossena, Benayoun, Babel, Mascherano, Gerrard, Riera, Kuyt, Lucas, Torres, Voronin
Not many players covered themselves in glory on Sunday, Johnson worked hard on the flank as did Kuyt, although he always does. On the other side Babel disappointed, while Insua, though always willing, failed to deliver any telling crosses and was troubled by Aaron Lennon time and again. Lucas had one of his poorer games, disappointing after Rafa had singled him out for praise following pre-season and we failed to get to grips with the midfield. Benayoun looked bright when he cme on and I expect him to start ahead of Babel. Other than that, the only changes I can see is Dossena for Insua, Plessis/Spearing for Lucas and Ayala to start depending on Skrtel’s fitness. Having said that, I believe Rafa will only make the Benayoun/Babel and Dossena/Insua swaps and leave the rest alone.
Possible starting 11 – Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Dossena, Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt, Benayoun, Gerrard, Torres
Stoke – (from) Sorensen, Simonsen, Faye, Sonko, Higginbotham, Davies, Griffin, Cort, Wilkinson, Pugh, Dickinson, Shawcross, Etherington, Delap, Whitehead, Lawrence, Whelan, Olofinjana, Tonge, Kitson, Cresswell, Fuller, Beattie
Stoke are a big, powerful side who get stuck into tackles and close down the space. They will again be delighted if they leave Anfield with anything, so I can see them playing in a similar vein to last year – get men behind the ball and try to score from set pieces, where they are always dangerous.
Possible starting 11 – Sorensen, Faye, Shawcross, Wilkinson, Delap, Lawrence, Whitehead, Etherington, Beattie, Fuller
This game will not be shown on tv so, if you haven’t got a ticket, check LFCReds forum for links to online streams.
Liverpool 2 – 0 Stoke
Liverpool will hope to score early, making Stoke come at them a bit more. If not, it could be another frustrating game, as I don’t see Stoke attacking too often, unless it is from a corner or free kick. This could also be the chance for Rafa to cast his eye over Ryan Shawcross, who we seem to be heavily linked with lately.
Anfield Online Prediction
The media will be all over Benitez if we don’t get a victory this time round. Stoke are a cracking football side but I think Liverpool will be stung in to action after Sunday’s defeat.
Liverpool 3-1 Stoke City