Liverpool will be hoping to return to winning ways after a rather disappointing 2-2 with Bournemouth in midweek.
The last week has pretty much summed up Liverpool’s campaign so far. A brilliant win against local rivals Everton put the side in good spirits and firmly in the driving seat for a top four spot, but Wednesday’s result means The Reds’ Champions League fate is now in the hands of their rivals. With two games in hand, wins for United and Arsenal would see them level on points with Liverpool , thus Saturday’s game has huge importance for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane have been Liverpool’s two brightest sparks this season and their injuries will have no doubt hit the team hard in their bid for top four. The Senegalese international has contributed 13 goals in 27 league appearances this campaign but with him sidelined, Divock Origi has been given the chance to impress. The Belgian has been in solid form of late, scoring his tenth goal of the season against Bournemouth and will be hoping to continue where he left off against Stoke earlier in the season.
With Liverpool’s struggles against so-called weaker sides persisting in midweek, Klopp’s side need to demonstrate they can see off opposition in the bottom half of the table. Failure to do so could see hopes of Champions League football fade into the abyss.
Having battled their way impressively to a goalless draw with Manchester City at the Etihad, Stoke were widely expected to kick-on with their season and battle to try and finish higher than their 9th placed finish last season. However, two disappointing results on the bounce to Leicester City and Burnley see the Potters come into Saturday’s game in dreadful form.
Scoring has proved to be a real struggle for the Potters, with just a single goal netted in their past four Premier League outings, emphasising a lack of creativity within their side at present. Furthermore, they have failed to score in five of their previous eight league matches, scoring four times.
Sadio Berahino hasn’t had the desired impact since joining in January, with his last top-flight goal coming in West Brom’s 3-2 win against Crystal Palace in February 2016, leaving Mark Hughes’s side in need of 14 points from their final seven games to retain their record of claiming at least 50 points in each of their three seasons under his tutelage.
With The Potters winless in 10 league games this season against the top six (D3 L7), Liverpool will be hoping to inflict further damage on Saturday in a bid to lift hopes of a top four finish come May. Nonetheless, everyone knows what a tough task it can be to get a result at the Bet 365 stadium and the Reds will need to be on their game to get past a well-drilled defensive unit.
Head To Head
Liverpool have won six of their last seven league games against Stoke, with the only defeat coming in that 6-1 thrashing on the final day of the 2014-15 season. The Reds have won the four most recent meetings between the two sides in all competitions. However, they have only secured two wins in eight league games at the Bet 365 stadium, with two draws and four defeats.
Jurgen Klopp will be sweating on the fitness of Philippe Coutinho prior to kick-off, with the Brazilian not involved in training this week after reports of him being sick at half time against Bournemouth. With Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson already on the sidelines, Coutinho’s presence will be desperately needed if Liverpool are to try and break down a resolute defence. Sadio Mane is also out, with the Senegalese international set to undergo surgery, ruling him out for what remains of the campaign.
The injuries for Liverpool could see Daniel Sturridge given a rare start after returning from his own injury troubles. Divock Origi is likely to lead the line after scoring his second in two games against the Cherries, while Lucas’ fitness will be tested should be start a third game in the space of a week. Alternatively, Trent Alexander-Arnold could occupy a deep midfield role alongside Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Glen Johnson is expected to be fit to start for Stoke, with him and Joe Allen set to line up against their former club. However, the Potters could be without two key men in Xherdan Shaqiri and Jonathan Walters at the weekend, with Jack Butland and Stephen Ireland long-term absentees.
Much has been made of Liverpool’s favourable fixture list in what remains of the season but as Wednesday proved, it’s games against the weaker sides where The Reds seem to struggle. However, Saturday’s game against Stoke provides the perfect opportunity for Liverpool to banish their demons and restore hopes of a top four finish. It will be tight, but here’s to hoping we can get the three points.
Stoke City 1-2 Liverpool