Liverpool host Stoke City on Tuesday in a bid to deliver a late Christmas present to their fans, in the form of three points.
In a packed festive schedule full of high-profile fixtures, this one is likely to go a little under the radar, but it’s an important one for the Reds to win in order to keep up at the top of the table.
Match: Liverpool vs Sunderland
Date: Tuesday 27th December
Time: 17:15 BST
Referee: Michael Oliver
Liverpool’s form is back on the upturn after a couple of dodgy results. Having risen to the top of the league on a three-month unbeaten run since the defeat to Burnley in August, the Reds won just one in four league games after the last international break of the year, drawing to Southampton and West Ham in that time, whilst AFC Bournemouth came from 3-1 down to beat the Reds 4-3 at Dean Court.
However, Jürgen Klopp’s side will return to Anfield off the back of two successive away wins. First came Middlesbrough. Liverpool travelled to Teeside in anticipation of a tough night against the bottom-half’s best defence, but swept Boro aside with a 3-0 win. However, that didn’t come close to Monday night’s win at Goodison Park. A fairly drab derby was decided by Sadio Mane in the 94th minute, sending Kopites wild in the away end.
Stoke’s form isn’t too bad, despite growing feelings around the club that Mark Hughes has perhaps taken the Potters as far as they can go under his management. They’ve only lost one of their past five games, away to Arsenal, drawing two and winning two of those five.
However, morale is low after they threw away a two-goal lead at home to Leicester City last week. Going into the second-half, playing against ten men, Hughes’ side failed to capitalise on their promising position, conceding two and dropping two points.
Since the game comes after Boxing Day, both teams are likely going to have teams leapfrog them before the game, but are 2nd and 11th respectively at the time of writing.
The team news discussion in Klopp’s Friday afternoon press conference mostly surrounded Philippe Coutinho and his return from injury, with the German explaining that the Brazilian is unlikely to return for the New Year. Joel Matip is one player hoping to return for the Stoke game, having missed the last two with an ankle problem, but it’s unlikely that he’ll return to the fold, especially given that Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan have helped the Reds to two clean sheets in their last two.
Simon Mignolet will keep his place in goal, whilst it’ll be interesting to see if Klopp makes any changes based on the Reds playing three times in seven days. Alberto Moreno might fancy his chances of a start over the Christmas period, whether it be against Stoke or not. Daniel Sturridge is expected to be handed more minutes than he got against Everton, albeit off the bench once more.
Stoke’s biggest injury news of the week was Jack Butland’s ankle problems continuing as it was revealed that the goalkeeper will be out for three more months in his bid to make a long-awaited comeback. They have got worries in other areas though, with Phil Bardsley, Geoff Cameron and Marc Muniesa all sidelined. Reports have suggested that Hughes is considering starting Peter Crouch, in order to cause Liverpool aerial troubles.
Predicted Liverpool XI: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana; Mane, Firmino, Origi.
Predicted Stoke City XI: Grant; Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Whelan, Imbula; Bojan, Allen, Walters; Crouch.
WHEN THEY LAST MET
Liverpool hammered Stoke 4-1 at Anfield in April as they maintained the good form that coupled with their Europa League run. Alberto Moreno grabbed a rare goal, scoring a peach to open the scoring, only for Bojan to equalise.
However, Sturridge and Origi soon took over, Sturridge getting one and Origi two as the Reds cruised to victory. Klopp paired those two up front together in a diamond formation that day, something he may consider doing when Sadio Mane goes away to the African Cup of Nations in January.
- Joe Allen has more Premier League goals this season, five, than all his previous seasons combined.
- Liverpool have won five of their last six league games against Stoke, but lost the other 6-1!
- Liverpol haven’t lost in their last 15 home league games.
- The Reds haven’t kept three successive clean sheets in the league under Klopp so far, they’re on two at the moment.
PREDICTION: LIVERPOOL 3-1 STOKE CITY
No, I don’t think we’ll get that third straight clean sheet, but yes I do think we’ll get three goals and three points. Despite the busy schedule ahead, Liverpool will have had eight days of rest by the time the game comes around, and as Klopp is known for taking things one game at a time, you’d imagine we’ll be well prepared. Origi to score, Firmino too as he’s due a goal. James Milner penalty the other.