Liverpool begin a busy and tough looking run of fixtures with a Boxing Day visit to Stoke to take on Tony Pulis’ side. The Reds play four matches in the space of 12 days over the Christmas/New Year period, with three of those matches played away from Anfield (Stoke, Q.P.R. and Mansfield). Stoke striker Michael Owen could make his first-team comeback against his old club after hamstring trouble, and Charlie Adam might be seen after he was granted compassionate leave following the death of his father. Crouch is likely to play and get a warm reception from the travelling fans.
An away trip to Stoke is not a fixture to relish. Stoke haven’t lost a home league game since February (a run of 15 games). They’re unbeaten in 8 games and have only conceded 3 goals at the Britannia all season. Liverpool have never won there in the Premier League & Stoke have kept a clean sheet in 4 of the last 5 league games against LFC.
The Reds’ last visit to the Britannia ended in a 2-1 win in last season’s Carling Cup tie thanks to a Luis Suarez brace. However, Stoke prevailed in the corresponding league fixture 1-0. The Reds have yet to win at the Britannia Stadium in the Premier League in four attempts, recording two draws and two defeats, while the two clubs played out a 0-0 draw earlier in the season at Anfield, leaving Liverpool with just two wins from our previous nine meetings with Stoke in the league home and away.
Martin Kelly (knee) and Fabio Borini (foot) are both ruled out for Liverpool while Joe Allen (hip) and Oussama Assaidi (knee) are doubts.
Defenders: Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique
Midfielders: Lucas, Gerrard (c), Downing, Sterling, Shelvey
Hopefully we will put a bigger stronger team to counter the “robust” (See disciplinary record) tactics of Stoke. With Crouch and Delap spearheading the high balls into the box routine, we may see Coates join as a 3rd central defender. Or Wisdom on the right, and Johnson on the left. We are unlikely to see Downing at left back, as he is not good enough defensively, but we are likely to see him on the wing, with Sterling, who is a tough little 18 year old battler. Suso is unlikely to start, so expect Shelvey instead as a man who will not be bullied. Henderson might play, but expect to see Lucas shielding the back 4 and Gerrard and Shelvey in the middle, with Suarez doing what he is best at.
Liverpool currently sit in 8th place with 25 points, one place above Stoke who have the same number of points but a slightly inferior goal difference (+2 compared to Liverpool’s +4).
The team with the second youngest average age in the league this season (us) against the second oldest.
The team with the most shots (us) in the league against the team with the fewest.
Stoke have conceded the fewest goals in the division this season, but also scored the joint-fewest.
Based on cards, Stoke have the worst disciplinary record in the PL this season.
The two sides have the joint-third worst shot conversion percentage (8%) in the Premier League.
So it’ll probably be a low-scoring, physical game. Who knew?!
Liverpool’s overall league record against Stoke City:
Total – P: 115 W: 55 D: 32 L: 28 F: 183 A: 117 GD: +66
Four players have left Stoke to sign for Liverpool, with the last of those joining the Reds in 1952. Sammy Smyth joined the club for a fee of £12,000 in December 1952 and scored an impressive 20 goals in just 44 appearances, including 13 in 26 games in his second season but his goals weren’t good enough to stop Liverpool from being relegated at the end of 1953/54.
Eight Liverpool players have left to join Stoke with the most recent departure being that of Charlie Adam for a fee of £5m in August. Alec Lindsay is arguably our most high profile departure, joining the Potters in 1977 for a fee of £20,000 after spending eight years at Anfield. Lindsay made 248 appearances (18 goals) and left having won three league titles, one FA Cup, one European Cup and two UEFA Cups with the Reds.
The betting is widely spread on this game from a low of 30% for an away win to a high of 70% for an away win.
30% home win
40% away win