Stoke City — Liverpool (Premier League)
Turning the chip back to the League, Stoke City and Liverpool face each other following a successful third round in the FA Cup for both sides. The reverse fixture at Anfield, opening the season, went for the Reds, Daniel Sturridge scored the single hit. Since then Mark Hughes’ men have been quite sturdy at Britannia. One thing is certain: with Suárez and friends on the pitch there will be goals.
A week ago Stoke City host Leicester and sent them off the FA Cup with a 2-1 defeat. Kenwyne Jones and Charlie Adam netted for the hosts, David Nugent for the Foxes. Previous they’ve drawn 1-1 with Everton and suffered consecutive losses away from home, 5-1 to the Toon and 3-0 against the Spurs. Stoke are 12th in the table with 22 points for 20 matches. In the next 30 days their opposition will alternate between more accessible squads — Palace, Sunderland — and top table sides — Liverpool, Man U, Southampton. You need to gather your points while you may, Potters, if you’re aiming at the top-half of the table.
Britannia is working like a charm for Mark Hughes’s side, they have been unbeaten for the last seven home games (3W-4D) and they’ve ha d to go through the likes of Southampton, Chelsea and Everton to achieve it. Their defensive block would certainly gain with a renewed with the Huth-Shawcross partnership at centre-back. Up front, though, they have been struggling and having one of Stoke’s major attack contributors — Assaidi — unavailable for the clash against his parent club won’t help.
Jack Butland had to step-up in goal because of Begovic and Sorensen’s injuries, and will probably start again. Andy Wilkinson is ruled out. Sorensen (calf) should be in contention, Robert Huth and Stephen Ireland will be tested closer to the match.
Probable line-up: Butland — Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters — Whelan, N’Zonzi — Walters, Adam, Arnautovic — Crouch.
are the last of the top four, with 39 points, looking up at Chelsea with 43 and Everton and Tottenham lurking behind with 38 and 37 respectively. Not a bad spot to be in, considering that at the starting line few would credit them as title contenders. There’s a reason they’re not playing in Europe this season, you know?
Brendan Rodgers came in and establish a unique rapport with brilliant but troublesome Suárez that is now repaying him and the fans with interests. Since he’s been back the striker become the driving force for Liverpool. It’s funny to hear Rodgers say the Uruguayan is like the players of old, he’s never tired to play and loves training. No rest for this weary!
Daniel Hagger’s injury may kep him away from the field up to six weeks, Mamadou Sakho better be fit as a fiddle. Aly Cissokho is bound to take left-back given Enrique and Flanagan’s injuries. Captains Steven Gerard’s hamstring injury is behind him and he’s likely to start in Joe Allen’s absence. Liverpool have been playing stretched thin but Brendan Rodgers is not afraid to move his pieces loosely on the board. So far he’s avoided breaking down.
Probable line-up: Mignolet — Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Cissokho — Gerrard, Leiva, Henderson — Sterling, Suárez, Coutinho.
Suárez has been a scoring machine this season, even though he missed Liverpool’s first five fixtures. He has 20 notches on his belt and counting. Charlie Adam, Potters best has merely 4. In fact, the entire Stoke squad combined is still one short on the Uruguayan. When he fails to score the Red’s either lose or draw. Can Stoke shut Luis Suárez down?