Stoke City host Liverpool on Saturday, in a rare 3pm kick off for the Reds. This may well be the last time it happens this season, with the trip to West Ham in the penultimate match of the season still potentially able to be moved for the TV.
This game might not be on a cold, Tuesday night – more of a warm Saturday afternoon – but top four-chasing Liverpool will face a stern test nonetheless.
Liverpool drew 2-2 with Bournemouth on Wednesday, in what proved to be a disappointing result and performance. Stoke, meanwhile, lost a drab game 1-0 to Burnley, with the highlight of the game coming when Charlie Adam fell over taking a corner, only to concede a free-kick for handball.
The Potters are eight points clear of the relegation zone as it stands and do not look like being dragged into the mix, but have struggled to pick up points in their last few games. They did hold Manchester City to a 0-0 draw at the Etihad less exactly a month ago, however, and should not be taken lightly.
Liverpool’s injury crisis has deepened further with the news that Philippe Coutinho is likely to miss the game through illness, whilst Sadio Mane will require surgery on his knee injury, and will be out for the rest of the season. Adam Lallana is progressing well and is expected to return sooner than originally anticipated, but will certainly not be back for this weekend.
The injury worries that Jurgen Klopp faces mean that Daniel Sturridge is likely to start, featuring for the first time since the 2-0 defeat to Hull City at the beginning of February. Trent Alexander-Arnold might also come into the midfield, given that Lucas has played both of the last two matches in quick succession, and looked tired midweek.
Jurgen Klopp’s pre-match press conference was dominated by updates on the current injury situation, which is hardly a surprise given the number of players he will have missing.
“I can’t imagine the last time where everyone was fit. That’s our life; not a problem, it’s a fact,” he said.
With Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane all missing from the starting line-up for at least this game, Liverpool are much-depleted, but the Reds know anything but a win would be less than satisfactory.
Even with so many injuries, these are the games where top sides find a way to win. We will soon see if a top four place is on the cards for Liverpool or not.
WHEN DOES THE GAME KICK OFF?
The match starts at 15:00 GMT and is not live on TV in the UK.
WHO IS THE REFEREE?
Mike Dean – Dean has only ever refereed Liverpool twice before in his entire career, because of his residence in the Wirral, in close proximity to the city. He took charge of the Goodison Park edition of the Merseyside derby back in December, however, and quite why the FA’s stance on him refereeing Liverpool has changed so suddenly after a fourteen year career in the top flight is unclear. The only other game he has refereed Liverpool in was against Sheffield United in 2003.
He has refereed Stoke far more frequently, including twice so far this season. First was the 4-1 home defeat to Manchester City in August, and more recently the 3-1 win away at Sunderland in mid-January.
Liverpool have played against Stoke twice under Jurgen Klopp, scoring four times in both games. The last manager to see his team score four goals in each of his first three games against an opponent was Manuel Pellegrini, whose Manchester City team achieved that against Tottenham.
Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Can, Alexander-Arnold, Wijnaldum, Firmino; Origi, Sturridge
Stoke: Grant; Cameron, Martins Indi, Shawcross, Pieters; Allen, Adam; Diouf, Afellay, Arnautovic; Berahino
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