LIVERPOOL FC

v

STOKE CITY

Anfield, Liverpool

March 18, 2012; 16:00 GMT

***

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As the vortex continues to sway Liverpool FC, one day presenting a dismal, sub-standard performance against Sunderland and on another day presenting a team of heroes against Everton, it is hard to place a finger on what lies in store for the club after the domestic competitions consummate this season. Consistency hasnai??i??t been much of an added flavor at the red half of Merseyside but Kenny and his team have done well to clinch a piece of silverware even in an otherwise unkempt season. While the trek to fourth spot is starting to get a little steep, the Reds are relatively well off in the FA Cup.

This Sunday, as Liverpool line up against Stoke City in the quarter-finals of the oldest football competition known to the globe, one will reminisce the previous three encounters between these two sides this season with clarity. Dalglishai??i??s team never really enjoyed success against the Potters in the Premier League in this campaign; his team losing at the Britannia in the first encounter and sharing the spoils at Anfield when the two sides met in January.

As Liverpoolai??i??s trend chalks out, they got the better of Tony Pulisai??i?? side in the fourth round of the Carling Cup when a Luis Suarez brace accelerated the Reds into the next round where they faced Chelsea. And now, once again, just like in a fantasy movie, Stoke appear in the way for Liverpool. If Kenny has made the right notes in his book, then he should know the game plan against a team known for its ruthlessly physical style of play.

Stoke have had a smooth ride through the FA Cup so far. Having beaten Gillingham, Derby County & Crawley comfortably, the Potters are basking in confidence as they travel to Anfield on Sunday. Although Liverpool will be buoyed by the prospect of a Wembley return, Tony Pulis will be well aware that his side can cause problems to the Reds as they did earlier in the Premier League season. Stoke will never change their approach to the game. In fact, they could be more aggressive considering a semi-final berth is at stake here. This makes up for an exciting encounter on Sunday evening.

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Team News & Tactical Brief

Liverpool

It isnai??i??t all hunky-dory at the injury table for the Reds. While Daniel Agger & Lucas Leiva continue to remain absentees, it looks like Glen Johnson will take a while to get back to match-fitness. Also, Craig Bellamy is doubtful to start after he picked up a knock that precluded him from the midweek Merseyside Derby. It is not to say that Liverpool havenai??i??t got able replacements for these players, but Kenny still has to pick a side that can get the better of Stoke, something that hasnai??i??t come easy for the Scot.

Stoke play a highly deep defensive line to start off with. The likes of Huth, Shawcross, Wilkinson and Wilson form a really tight backline, closing any feed channels for their opposition and hence giving their own midfield enough to time to track back and clutter the attacking zones further. Liverpool must be well aware of this now and either need to play quick, counter-attacking football with the midfield and attack linking up efficiently (like Gerrard and Suarez did in the Everton game) or need to make maximum use of their wingers (Downing, Enrique and Kelly) to feed Carroll if he starts.

It is hard to imagine why Dalglish would change the starting XI from the midweek League fixture against Everton but with a tough opponent like Stoke walking out of the tunnel, the only possible change could be Dirk Kuyt coming in for Jordan Henderson. The Dutchman was used as a sub for the game against the Toffees and could get a nod in the FA Cup quarter-finals considering he has stayed with club long enough to realize the importance of such games.

Charlie Adam hasnai??i??t had a start for about a week now and could be giving young Jay Spearing a run for his money but quite frankly, Spearing has the spirit and gusto that could just about give him the edge over Adam albeit he doesnai??i??t have the crossing abilities of the Scot. Since the midfield has presented itself as a dilemma for Kenny, it is important to understand that if Spearing starts, then he will surely have his work cut-out against a side like Stoke City.

Over at defense, chances are, the other Uruguayan – Sebastian Coates, could find a starting spot alongside Martin Skrtel in the center while Martin Kelly who had a fantastic game against the neighbouring rivals will start at right-back with Enrique on the left. It is a neat defensive line but Coatesai??i?? England experience is still in its infancy and Stoke is a big challenge in such a scenario. However, it is not new to see Kenny place faith in the youngsters.

Probable Starting Lineup (4-4-2): Reina; Skrtel, Coates, Kelly, Enrique; Spearing, Gerrard, Kuyt, Downing; Suarez, Carroll

football formations

Probable Starting Lineups

Stoke City

Tony Pulisai??i?? side travels to the north-west without the services of Ricardo Fuller. The 32-year-old Jamaican striker was sent off at Stamford Bridge last week after foolishly stamping Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic. The match against Liverpool will be the first match ban he will be serving.

Danish stopper Thomas Sorensen is rumoured to start instead of Asmir Begovic in front of goal after Pulis decided to rest Begovic, saving him for a better League run. Stoke otherwise do not have serious injury concerns and Tony Pulis can spend Saturday evening thinking of eleven names who will take his side to the semi-final and a step closer to Wembley.

Quite obviously, the Potters will feature the same defensive lineup that was on show against the Blues in the Premier League last Saturday. Over at midfield, Dave Whelan could start alongside Dean Whitehead while Matthew Etherington is likely to start in place of Ricardo Fuller on the left. 23-year-old Ryan Shotton has impressed the manager in the recent past and has rightly earned his place in the first-team. Just like against Chelsea, he is likely to start on the right side of midfield for Stoke, against Liverpool.

Cameron Jerome and Jon Walters have been in good form in the FA Cup so far but Pulis will have to make a tough call while choosing his striking pair because Peter Crouch was one of the other players left out on the bench for the game against Chelsea and he will, no doubt be itching for a start against his former club. Walters gave Liverpool a tough time when the two sides first met in the League for the 2011/12 season. His boisterous presence was difficult to combat; even for the likes of Skrtel and Carragher. So, all the signs are in his favour for a starting spot alongside Crouch.

Probable Starting Lineup (4-4-2): Sorensen; Huth, Shawcross, Wilkinson, Wilson; Whitehead, Whelan, Etherington, Shotton; Walters, Crouch

 

Key Facts

  • Of teams to have made it to the sixth round of the FA Cup at least four times, Liverpool have the best progression rate, winning 79.2% (19 of 24).
  • Liverpool have kept seven clean sheets in their last eight FA Cup sixth-round games at Anfield, including replays.
  • The Potters have won their last five FA Cup away games, their best ever run.
  • Robert Huth has netted in five of his last seven FA Cup games.

 

TheHardTackleai??i??s Players to Watch out For

Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)

Will he Silence the Potters?

Well, we havenai??i??t just picked him because of his hat-trick in his 400th League game for the club against arch rivals Everton. Bear in mind that one of the many reasons for Liverpoolai??i??s rollercoaster form this season is because of the lack of support from midfield for the strikers. The game against Everton showed what a few exchanges between two world-class players can actually do. Now this is the kind of link up we are expecting on Sunday.

Peter Crouch (Stoke City)

Can He Make a Difference?

Crouch has been Stokeai??i??s top goalscorer this season; he must surely be relishing the prospect of scoring in front of the Kop just like he did when he was in Liverpool colours. Although loyalties have changed, Crouch is the kind of professional who will understand what is required of him and will no doubt, emerge as a talking point for pundits and fans all over.

 

TheHardTackleai??i??s Prediction

Liverpool 2 ai??i?? 1 Stoke City

The Liverpool ship has shuddered far too many times this season at regular/irregular intervals. As the season slowly comes to its climax, Dalglish will be expecting lesser unpredictable performances from his side. The walls are closing in and the Reds will have to move swiftly and together, if they are make it to Wembley once again.

 

TheHardTackleai??i??s Blast from the Past

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2 Responses to “FA Cup 6th Round Preview: Liverpool v Stoke City ai??i?? Gerrard & Co. Shift Gears for Wembley Return”

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  1. Rahul Bhutani says:

    Follow the Indian football Debate by the HardTackle’s Resident Authors and contribute your opinions as well
    http://www.thehardtackle.com/2012/tht-debates-is-savio-medeira-right-to-demand-a-one-international-striker-only-clause-in-the-i-league/

  2. pet sitting says:

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