At the start of the season Stoke wouldn’t have been the prize pick to snatch a Europa League spot come the Premier League’s closing ceremonies in May. But with the way things are going Tony Pulis’ men look almost certain to be playing European football in 2013/14. The Potters have enjoyed a tremendous season that has seen them fight back against the odds and forge the best defensive record in the division. Rival supporters continue to gripe against the brutal playing style Pulis has made the Stoke trademark over the years and the Britannia Stadium a battle ground to be feared. But its an approach that could fetch big results at the end of the campaign.
In terms of methodologies Liverpool provide a stark contrast to that of their hosts. Since the arrival of Brendan Rodgers in the summer the Reds have slowly adjusted to the Northern Irishman’s modus operandi, based heavily around ball retention and patient probing. However Rodgers will undoubtedly need to modify his tactics to counteract the physical dominance of Stoke, especially in the central midfield areas. If Steven Gerrard can roll back the years like he did against Fulham on Saturday the Merseysider’s should come away unscathed.
Michael Owen could make his first Stoke appearance since October whilst fellow striker Peter Crouch is pushing hard for a recall to the starting lineup.
Raheem Sterling could return after beginning the Fulham game on the bench. Joe Allen is struggling with a pelvic problem and doesn’t look likely to be risked.
What the managers said…
“We just a need a little bit of luck more than anything. We’re disappointed because, like other games, we have created good opportunities.We had two clear-cut chances. Matt Etherington had one that came back off Kyle Walker’s foot. On another day that hits him and goes in. But you can’t fault the players.” Tony Pulis wants his Stoke side to rediscover their scoring touch
“I thought Stewart was brilliant today, in every aspect of the game. I spoke to Stewart about six or seven weeks ago and we had an honest conversation about where he was at. He’s in his late 20s, he was an England international, and he wasn’t playing. So we spoke about how he could get into the team. And I think his reaction from that moment, like it has been for Jose Enrique and one or two of the others, has been outstanding. If he keeps playing like that, he’ll be going nowhere – he’ll be staying in the team and that’s what it’s about.” Brendan Rodgers says Stewart Downing could stay at Liverpool he maintains his fine form (Liverpool Echo)
Only 11 goals have been scored in nine Premier League meetings between Stoke and Liverpool with the hosts unbeaten in 15 games (seven wins, eight draws) at the Britannia Stadium.
Prediction: Stoke City 1-1 Liverpool
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