Stoke City host Liverpool at the Bet365 Stadium on Saturday afternoon with both teams looking to secure three points after failing to win their mid-week Premier League contests.
The Potters were defeated by Burnley courtesy of a solitary George Boyd goal at Turf Moor on Tuesday which leaves Mark Hughes’ side without a win in their last four fixtures. The players were booed off by the travelling supporters in mid-week and there is a growing pressure on Hughes to halt an alarming run of poor results which has seen them slip into the bottom half of the table. If Stoke suffer a fourth consecutive defeat on Saturday then they could finish the weekend just five points clear of the relegation zone.
A late Josh King strike denied Liverpool a victory at Anfield on Wednesday evening but The Reds have been in good form in recent weeks. Jurgen Klopp’s team still has some work left to do in order to secure a top-four finish and Champions League football as, despite sitting in third place six points clear of Arsenal and Manchester United, they have played two more games than their rivals. However, Liverpool could have to face Stoke without a host of first-team players with Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson all likely to miss out due to injury or illness.
Stoke City have suffered an alarming dip in form in recent weeks and the defeat at Turf Moor in midweek was their third consecutive loss in the Premier League. They have picked up just four points from the last eighteen available and have scored just one goal in their previous four contests. In fact, the lack of goals will be a major concern for Mark Hughes whose team have only netted 33 goals through the entirety of their league campaign this season, a total that only four other sides have failed to exceed (Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Burnley and Hull City), and they have only scored two or more goals in one of their previous ten contests.
Liverpool may have dropped two points at Anfield on Wednesday evening courtesy of Josh King’s late equaliser but Jurgen Klopp’s side have been in good form in recent weeks, with notable victories against Arsenal, Burnley and a derby day win against Everton. However, The Reds have struggled on their travels since the turn of the year and have won just one of their last seven away fixtures in all competitions, a 1-0 success against League Two side Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup third round back in early January. Liverpool have experienced some success at the Bet365 Stadium having won both of their previous visits last campaign although the 6-1 defeat, in Steven Gerrard’s final game for the club, in May 2015 still sticks firmly in the memory.
Mark Hughes was boosted by the return of Geoff Cameron and Glen Johnson to the match day squad in midweek but could still be without Jonathan Walters and Xherdan Shaqiri for the visit of Liverpool due to knee and calf injuries respectively. Jack Butland has returned to full training following over a year out of first team action due to a broken ankle and could be in contention to earn a place amongst the substitutes whilst Stephen Ireland is a long-term injury absentee. It is almost impossible to predict what formation or personnel Mark Hughes will deploy – the Welshman has used 3-5-2, 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 formations in the last couple of months but could stick with the three-at-the-back system that he utilised at Turf Moor.
Jurgen Klopp currently has an abundance of injury concerns as he prepares his side for the trip to North Staffordshire. Sadio Mane’s knee injury is reported to be worse than initially thought and it is unlikely that he will feature at the weekend whilst Philippe Coutinho is also a doubt after picking up an illness during the week. This could result in a recall for forgotten striker Daniel Sturridge who has been on the periphery of the first team picture for the vast majority of the campaign. Liverpool will also be without Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and Danny Ings, all of whom are not expected to return to action in the near future.
Verdict: Stoke City 1-0 Liverpool
Stoke City may be in the middle of a poor run of results and the lack of goals will be a major concern for Mark Hughes, but The Potters are formidable on home soil and nothing stokes up the crowd at the Bet365 Stadium than a backs-against-the-wall scenario. Jurgen Klopp’s side have struggled on their travels since the turn of the year and without Sadio Mane and, potentially, Philippe Coutinho you have to question whether The Reds will have enough star power to come away with a positive result. We predict a narrow victory for the home side at a raucous Bet365 Stadium.