Joe Allen, hailed as the Welsh Xavi when he first signed for Liverpool, will return to his former club for the first time as Stoke City aim for their first win at Anfield in the league since March 1959. They did beat the Reds on their own turf in January but were beaten on penalties in the League Cup semi-final, and will now look to avenge that defeat on Tuesday evening.
Wins over Middlesbrough and a late Merseyside derby victory over Everton have given confidence a major boost for Jurgen Klopp’s team going into their first fixture at Anfield since drawing with West Ham. The Reds have not been as devastating without Philippe Coutinho but have maintained a solid level of quality, putting aside that draw with the Hammers and defeat to Bournemouth, and will head into this game with their heads up.
Stoke are without a win in three games after throwing away a two goal lead at home to Leicester City last weekend, despite the Foxes being down to 10 men after Jamie Vardy’s early sending off. Despite taking the lead against Arsenal they surrendered to a 3-1 defeat but will take heart from the solid point taken from a stalemate with Southampton since then. Whilst the team’s form is not outstanding, they have picked things up since the start of the season.
Liverpool predicted starting XI Stoke City predicted starting XI
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The main decision for Klopp to make will be whether to opt for Divock Origi or Daniel Sturridge up front, with the Belgian having impressed until a disappointing display against Everton last week. Joel Matip is not expected to play a part, allowing Ragnar Klavan to continue in defence.
Xherdan Shaqiri is likely to be frustrated with Mark Hughes predicted to field an unchanged line-up from that which initially took the lead against the reigning champions last time out. The Swiss international may fight for a place on the wings but Bojan and Mame Biram Diouf should retain their places.
Suspensions and Injuries
It’s expected that Jurgen Klopp won’t risk Joel Matip who is closing in on a return from an ankle injury. Philippe Coutinho is still not quite ready for a comeback after his ankle ligament problem and is still aiming for the Manchester City fixture on New Year’s Eve. Marko Grujic is also nearing a return to contention after a tendon injury but Danny Ings remains out of action until the end of the season. Daniel Sturridge is not expected to start but is very likely to figure from the bench.
Marko Arnautovic will be the big miss for the Potters after his sending off against Southampton, with this being the second of a three game ban. Jack Butland remains sidelined alongside Geoff Cameron, Phil Bardsley and Stephen Ireland but there are no fresh injury concerns for Mark Hughes.
Stoke could pose problems for this Liverpool side, particularly if they can be effective on the counter-attack, but Liverpool are the favourites for a reason. The quality of the Reds’ attack is likely to make the difference and give them a Liverpool win.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Craig Ballantyne.