Liverpool travel to the Bet365 stadium on Saturday afternoon in a quest to get their top four push back on track. The Reds could only muster a disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Bournemouth last time out and now need a victory from a team that won’t make it easy.
In their last five trips to Stoke City in the Premier League, Liverpool have won two and lost three; one of those losses being the unforgettable 6-1 hammering in Steven Gerrard’s final game for the club.
However, there are a couple of facts that make pleasant reading for the men in red. In the three league encounters between the two sides since the 6-1 debacle, Liverpool have won all three matches, with a combined aggregate score of 9-2. Jurgen Klopp has overseen two 4-1 victories in his only league encounters against the Potters, and Liverpool fans will be hoping it’s due to the fact that he has Mark Hughes figured out.
One thing not going in Liverpool’s favour, however, is their ever-increasing injury list. In addition to Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson being out for the foreseeable future, Daniel Sturridge still doesn’t appear match fit, Philippe Coutinho has suddenly become a huge doubt after his illness from Wednesday, and Sadio Mane has officially been ruled out for the rest of the season by Jurgen Klopp.
While players like Lallana and Henderson are obviously amiss, neither really compares to how critical the loss of Sadio Mane might be. Liverpool’s respective records this season with and without the Senegalese winger are in stark contrast. In the twenty-nine games with him the team has managed a win percentage of 65.5%, with only three losses. However, in the eleven games without him they have only been able to garner a win percentage of 27.3% and lost almost a third of all the encounters. (via Bleacher Report)
Add into that, with the prospect of Philippe Coutinho potentially missing the trip to Stoke, it’s beginning to look like grim viewing for the Reds. The little Brazilian had looked to be back to his best in Liverpool’s last two games, picking up two goals and one assist. Losing a player of his quality along with probably the side’s two other chief attacking forces in Lallana and Mane, and it’s tough to see where goals are going to come from.
If Coutinho does indeed miss the match (he’s still only a doubt remember), then Liverpool’s attack will either feature an undoubtedly talented but vastly inexperienced Ben Woodburn, or a not fully fit Daniel Sturridge, playing alongside Firmino and Origi. Stoke were already going to make this match difficult for Klopp’s boys but it looks an extremely uphill task now.
Come out of this with three points and not only will it obviously help the side mathematically, but it could potentially be a massive psychological catalyst that is needed to finish the season strongly.