This week sees the first round of midweek fixtures in the current Premier League season. Liverpool travel to Stoke to take on a Potters side who find themselves in fifteenth position having won just three games so far this campaign. After Tottenham lost to Leicester City last night, a win for Liverpool will see them climb to fifth place and possibly even higher, depending on how Arsenal and Chelsea do in their respective matches. Fans shouldn’t get their hopes up too high however, as this round of matches marks the start of the busy festive period which has derailed Liverpool seasons all too often in recent years.
Liverpool Team News
Jurgen Klopp fielded what could be described as a weaker team against Chelsea at the weekend and it prompted journalists to ask questions about selection policy, in the build up to this match. Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane could be in line to return to action tomorrow, but the boss said that there are plenty of other players who didn’t face Chelsea, but will still be vying for a starting spot. He also stated that players are not rested, but rather all players are used as the team look to make the most of squad depth. One advantage that the Reds have, coming into the festive period, is that they are without any major injury issues, except for Nathaniel Clyne who is still a long term absentee.
Simon Mignolet will start in goal and in front of him Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan will likely be the centre-back pairing. Dejan Lovren is still carrying some minor swelling and Klopp said he will “be close” to a return. However, he will not want to rush the Croatian back into action too quickly, so Lovren will probably take a spot on the bench. Joe Gomez put in a very mature performance against Chelsea and made one important last-ditch tackle. The Englishman is in line to start again tonight, but expect Trent Alexander-Arnold to get more run outs over the next couple of months. On Saturday, Alberto Moreno went some way toward redeeming himself for the Sevilla game and will start again here to try and get a run of form going.
In the middle, Emre Can was unable to play on Saturday as he had a very minor injury. However, Klopp has said that this is all cleared up so the German could be starting at the Bet365 Stadium. Alongside him, Jordan Henderson will take the captain’s armband and will be ready to lead in side to victory in, what could be, a very tricky away fixture. The ever reliable, Philippe Coutinho will probably complete the trio. There is a possibility that the Brazilian could be left out though, in order to avoid tiredness ahead of some fixture congestion. Adam Lallana played just a handful of minutes against Chelsea, but it was excellent to see him return to action. It is very probable that he will get another substitute appearance tonight.
The attacking department should be returned to full force tonight, with Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino in line to start tonight. Mohamed Salah added to his Premier League tally on Saturday and he moved into double figures. The top scorer title is currently being shared with Harry Kane, so Salah will be keen to make that spot his own once again…but can he do it on a wet, windy night in Stoke?
Predicted Line Up: Mignolet; Moreno, Klavan, Matip, Gomez; Coutinho, Henderson, Can; Mane, Firmino, Salah.
Stoke City Team News
The main man missing from the Stoke line up will be ‘keeper, Jack Butland. The England international has been absent since earlier this month with a fractured finger and is expected to be side-lined until after Christmas. Veteran shot-stopper, Lee Grant has taken his place and has already conceded four goals in his first two games as Butland’s replacement.
Stoke are expected to adopt a ‘five at the back’ formation to deal with Liverpool’s explosive attacking prowess. Former Anfield regular, Glen Johnson is a doubt to play, so Mame Biram Diouf could drop back into a right-wing back position. Another former Red, Peter Crouch has recently signed a one-year contract extension with Stoke, but will still start from the bench tonight. Crouch is joint top scorer for the Potters, with all of his goals coming during substitute appearances.
Liverpool will have to keep a watchful eye on Xherdan Shaqiri, who has, without a doubt, has been Stoke’s best player this season. Mark Hughes has assertively expressed that any advances made for the Swiss midfielder during January will be rebuffed, as he will be a key part of the fight against relegation. Shaqiri has five assists this season so is much more dangerous as a provider, rather than a finisher.
Predicted Line Up: Grant; Pieters, Martins Indi, Shawcross, Zouma, Diouf; Allen, Fletcher; Jese, Shaqiri; Choupo-Moting.
Although Liverpool will come into this match as strong favourites, it definitely has the potential to be a frustrating evening, resulting in a 0-0 score line. However, I believe if Liverpool can bag one they will run away with it against a rather poor Stoke outfit. In my opinion, a 3-0 win is a very worthwhile prediction.