Wednesday, 2nd February – 20:00 (GMT) Venue: Anfield
Despite failing to keep hold of their prized asset, their most prolific scoring outlet and one of a select few match winners currently at the club, fans are surprisingly upbeat about the immediate future of the Liverpool FC and the direction in which the Reds are heading. However, after a frantic deadline day which saw Fernando Torres complete his switch from Liverpool to Chelsea but Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll become the latest idols on Merseyside, will it all prove too much on Wednesday when King Kenny attempts to gel a team which has just lost their talismanic striker?
There will be plenty of spotlight on Liverpool when they tackle Stoke City at Anfield on Wednesday, because of a number of reasons, to be honest. Everyone is intrigued to see just how Liverpool cope with life without ‘El Nino’, a player the Kop came to adore but have all of a sudden come to loathe the 2010 World Cup winner, but also how their latest pin-up, Luis Suarez, handles his debut. The Uruguay international had an extraordinary scoring CV over in Holland with Ajax, averaging over a goal every game last term, but the Premier League is a great deal tougher and the feisty forward wouldn’t of hand picked a tougher opener than a meeting with the hard-hitting Potters, albeit at Anfield where Liverpool should look to dominate proceedings from start to finish.
Andy Carroll, though, won’t make his debut. The former Newcastle striker, who has 11 goals in the Premier League this season already, two more than Torres, has a thigh injury and won’t feature for at least another three weeks. It’s unfortunate as the Kop faithful are eager to see their new Number. 9 in action on Wednesday in a match the Reds simply have to win if they’re to keep alive any faint hopes of finishing in the Champions League places. Back-to-back wins in the league (0-3 Wolves & 1-0 Fulham) have seen Liverpool reduce the gap significantly, though Chelsea’s emphatic win last night means Kenny Dalglish’s charges still have a twelve-point deficit they need to cut down to size.
Although disappointing, the fact Liverpool weren’t involved in all the Fourth Round FA Cup action should actually be a massive benefit to the team. Stoke, meanwhile, will have to contest their third match in the space of a week unlike a Liverpool side who will have appreciated the weekend off. Steven Gerrard also has stepped up his return to full fitness after featuring in his side’s 1-0 triumph over Fulham last time out, though Jamie Carragher’s imminent return is the talk of the terraces after Dalglish confirmed that the defensive stalwart will be in the squad to face a Stoke side who comprehensively beat them 2-0 back in November at the Brittania Stadium.
Some 80-odd hours ago Stoke were dumping Wolves out of the FA Cup and setting up a tantalising Fifth Round tie with League One Brighton. Now they prepare themselves for the wrath of Anfield, a stadium which has seen their side, Liverpool, return to something like their old selves but Stoke endure two pedestrian visits in the last two seasons.
Stoke have enjoyed many highlights during their two-and-a-half-year spell in the Barclay’s Premier League, some memorable results which won’t be forgotten in a hurry. One of those was their demolition job of Liverpool back in November, when goals from Kenwyn Jones and Ricardo Fuller sealed a comfortable 2-0 win which saw the Potters produce an authoritative performance, arguably their most accomplished performance of the season. However, we should point out that the game in question was at the Brittania Stadium, a venue we often describe as a fortress for Stoke, whereas elsewhere they tend to struggle and none more so than Anfield.
In two previous visits to Merseyside to face Liverpool in the Premiership, Stoke have collected just one point (0-0 draw), a creditable point when you consider than then – during the 2008/2009 season – Liverpool finished a close second behind Manchester United. However, they were emphatically beaten 4-0 on their last visit while manager Tony Pulis still awaits his team’s first goal at Anfield.
The omens are mixed, though. Stoke have made it all the way to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup courtesy of back-to-back away wins over Cardiff City and Wolves, progress which is bound to life the the whole dressing room. In the Premier League, however, the Potters are on the brink of suffering their third away defeat on the spin following successive defeats at Manchester United (2-1) and Fulham (2-0).
Last 5 Results
Premiership: Liverpool 1-0 Fulham Premiership: Wolves 0-3 Liverpool Premiership: Liverpool 2-2 Everton Premiership: Blackpool 2-1 Liverpool FA Cup: Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool
FA Cup: Wolves 0-1 Stoke City Premiership: Fulham 2-0 Stoke City FA Cup: Cardiff City 0-2 Stoke City (after Extra-Time) Premiership: Stoke City 2-0 Bolton Wanderers FA Cup: Cardiff City 1-1 Stoke City
2010/2011 Premiership Statistics
League Position: 7th Win-Draw-Lose: 9-5-10 (Home: 7-3-2) Goal Difference: 31-31 (Home: 20-10) Leading Goalscorer: Steven Gerrard & Dirk Kuyt (4) Form: LLDWW (Home: WLWDW)
League Position: 10th Win-Draw-Lose: 9-3-11 (Away: 3-1-7) Goal Difference: 28-28 (Away: 12-16) Leading Goalscorer: Kenwyn Jones (5) Form: LWLWL (Away: WDWLL)
Head-to-Head (Last 5 Seasons):
2010/2011: Stoke City 2-0 Liverpool
2009/2010: Stoke City 1-1 Liverpool 2009/2010: Liverpool 4-0 Stoke City
2008/2009: Stoke City 0-0 Liverpool 2008/2009: Liverpool 0-0 Stoke City
- Liverpool are seeking their third successive victory after back-to-back wins over Wolves (0-3) and Fulham (1-0) in the league. - Have lost just one of their previous ten home matches in all competitions. – Five of Liverpool’s seven victories at home in the league this season have been without conceding. - The Reds have scored in 19 of 24 league games this season, though only one of those was at Anfield (Liverpool 0-1 Wolves). – With Fernando Torres now gone, Dirk Kuyt and Steven Gerrard are the club’s leading scorers in the league for the term with four goals each. - Liverpool have never conceded a goal at home to Stoke in the Premier League (2 matches).
- Stoke have won three of their last four games (1 League, 2 FA Cup). - Since the start of 2011, Stoke have yet to register a point from two away matches in the Premier League. – The Potters have failed to score in 4 of 11 away league games this season, while they’ve never scored a Premier Goal at Anfield (2 matches). - None of Stoke’s last five away goals in the league were scored by a striker, in fact only 3 of their 12 away goals all season have been scored by forwards.
Liverpool – Unfortunately, January recruit Andy Carroll won’t make his début on Wednesday night at Anfield because of a thigh injury. The £35million-rated forward is back running but won’t make his Reds bow for at least three weeks. Luis Suarez, however, will make his début and could lead the line on his lonesome following the departure of Fernando Torres to Chelsea. Martin Kelly will continue at right-back as Glen Johnson works the left flank, while Lucas could oust Christian Poulsen from the centre of midfield after the Brazilian returned to training last week.
Stoke City – Tony Pulis rarely has any concerns when it comes to injuries, nor suspensions for that matter, so the Potters chief will have virtually a full strength squad of players to choose from. John Carew should continue to partner Kenwyn Jones up top, with Jonathan Walters almost certain to replace one of the two in the second half. Despite keeping a clean sheet at the weekend, when saving a Wolves penalty, Thomas Sorensen isn’t likely to start at Anfield with Asmir Begovic set to resume the gloves after an impressive first half to the season.
Liverpool – 1.67 VictorChandler Draw – 4.00 BetFred Stoke City – 6.00 Boylesports