On an afternoon when anything other than a win would have felt like a defeat for Liverpool Football Club, they decided to get one in the most stressful fashion possible.
Coming into this encounter, all the talk was about Liverpool’s horrifically timed injury crisis, and how badly it would affect the side. So when the starting XI was confirmed and we saw that both Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino could only make the bench, blood pressures began to rise.
The Reds started the match with a very surprising and untested three at the back formation. Add into that, the fact that Trent Alexander-Arnold and Bed Woodburn both found themselves in the line-up and this game looked as though it could only go one way.
And indeed that was how it began, from the opening five minutes you could tell that Liverpool side was toothless. The shocking display continued and Jurgen Klopp found his side 1-0 down at half time, thanks to a goal from the club’s arch-rival Jonathan Walters.
The German didn’t hesitate to move however, and the Brazilian duo of Coutinho and Firmino were on for the 2nd half in the place of unfortunate youngsters Trent and Woodburn. The move turned out to be an inspired one, as the entire dynamic of the match shifted with their introduction.
James Milner moved out to play as a left-wing-back, and Clyne went to his opposite side. Origi lead the line, with a Brazilian on either side of him (Daniel Sturridge replaced him midway through the half). And Stoke were simply unable to get their foot on the ball; Can and Wijnaldum were both immense yet again, the duo absolutely ran the midfield in the 2nd half.
As the pressure from The Reds kept piling on, so did the goals. The starring Brazilian duo each grabbing a goal in the space of two minutes, Firmino’s goal in particular a sight to behold.
There was a scare immediately following the goal at the other end as Simon Mignolet pulled off a blinder of a save to deny Berahino. The Belgian was in imperious form all game long. From that moment on however, it was pretty smooth sailing for Klopp’s men and they held on for a massive three points.
After the disappointing draw in midweek Vs Bournemouth, this win was much needed. Liverpool were really starting to feel the warm air of City, Arsenal, and United breathing down their necks and they just needed to re-establish some breathing room.
The Reds have only six games left in their season, and are currently nine points ahead of Arsenal and United, who each have three games in hand.
As long as The Merseysiders keep picking up three points, the pressure will keep building on the chasing pair, as each of their games in hand become absolutely must win.
The Reds will definitely take solace in the fact that their competitors still have to all play each other in these final weeks. And if Liverpool can keep getting victories at tricky places like Stoke – no matter how ugly a win – then they look destined to book a place in the top four.