Liverpool will bid to overtake Stoke in the League table when they welcome Tony Pulis side to Anfield on Sunday. Just two places and two points separates the Reds from 12th place Stoke although with Brendan Rodgers yet to taste a Premier League win at Anfield since taking charge three points is not a certainty.
As always the Potters have proved a tricky customer for rival Premier League sides however they have found wins difficult to come across. Valuable points at home to Manchester City and Arsenal have been followed by away points to Reading and Wigan. Their sole win of the season came last weekend in the 2-0 win over Swansea which showed their resilience coming off the back of a first defeat of the season in round five to Chelsea.
Liverpool meanwhile is fast becoming the neutrals favourite team to watch as the Brendan’s Rodgers revolution gathers pace. Their 13 games so far this season have yield 44 goals, an average of 3.38 a game. In six games so far in the league, the Reds have scored 9 goals and conceded 12 and while their performances have been improving as the season progresses individual errors at the back have proved costly.
Speaking in the aftermath of the 3-2 defeat to Udinese in the Europa League, when defensive errors again proved costly, Rodgers admitted that if his young side can cut out the defensive errors they can become a real force
“We had been so dominant in the game and the players were outstanding, so I was just frustrated for them that we had let Udinese back in the game, and then ultimately come out of it with nothing.
“The players give everything and we are just working very hard to cut out the mistakes, because I think once we cut them out, we can be a real force as a team.
“The creativity in our team is improving every day and there is real excitement in the team going forward.
“If we can just cut out the mistakes that unfortunately we are getting punished for, then I believe we can do very well.”
Liverpool will be without long term absentee’s Martin Kelly and Lucas while Jose Enrique and Joe Cole could be involved in some shape or form after shaking off recent injuries.
Jonjo Shelvey, scorer of Liverpool’s opener in the Udinese clash, will miss out as he serves a suspension while Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger, Raheem Sterling, Martin Skrtel, Luis Suarez and Nuri Sahin are all set to feature are being rested for the Europa League clash.
Stoke have no injury worries ahead of the trip to Anfield although Andy Wilkinson will not be involved as he sits out the final game of his three match ban.
Prediction: Home win – A midweek loss by the second string in the Europa League to Udinese overshadowed a good week for Liverpool that began with a first league win of the season and culminated with the news that defender Daniel Agger has signed a new deal. A second successive league win would be the icing on the cake for Brendan Rodgers but the physicality of Stoke will offer a stern test to the Northern Irishman’s Liverpool project. The improving form of Gerrard coupled with the improved finishing of Suarez will be key to any result.
Ones to watch:
Michael Owen: The 32 year old is one of three formers Reds alongside Charlie Adam and Peter Crouch that return to Anfield on Sunday. Owen, linked with a deadline day move to Liverpool, will be keen to show Brendan Rodgers what he missed out on.
Raheem Sterling: It says a lot of the 17 year olds progress in recent weeks that he has, alongside Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez, become one of the key players and source of chances for the Reds this season. Sterling set up Gerrard for a goal in the win over Norwich and his pace coupled with his tricky will be sure to give the Stoke back line a tricky afternoon.