Liverpool FC manager Brendan Rodgers believes Stoke will face a much different team than the one they humiliated at the end of last season when the Reds return to the Britannia Stadium for their Premier League opener on Sunday.
Rodgers’ side suffered a chastening afternoon in the Potteries in the final game of the last campaign as they were thrashed 6-1 by a rampant Stoke side.
Despite the close-season departures of Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling, Rodgers is adamant there will not be a repeat of Liverpool’s heaviest Premier League defeat as he has strengthened his side with seven new players.
“We’ll certainly be better than what we were last season, that’s for sure,” Rodgers said.
“That was a one-off game in terms of the whole experience. It was incredible; in every aspect of football and high-class football, we lacked in everything.
“It was something that was very surprising and something that was very disappointing.
“We’ll look to return to the levels that we’ve had over a couple of seasons here in terms of organisation and fight. Then obviously you add the talent to that and it gives us the chance to win the game.
“Stoke is always a difficult place to go. We know it will be a tough game, but it will certainly be tougher for them than it was last year.”
Rodgers has confirmed Liverpool will be without Wales midfielder Joe Allen for “three to four weeks” after he picked up a hamstring injury during their pre-season friendly against Swindon Town.
Striker Daniel Sturridge (hip) and full-back Jon Flanagan (knee) are the only other major absentees for Rodgers, who is poised to hand full debuts to midfielder James Milner, right-back Nathaniel Clyne and striker Christian Benteke.
England international Milner, who joined on a free transfer from Manchester City, has also been named as vice-captain to club skipper Jordan Henderson.
“James has got big character and a big mentality, and I felt we needed that in the team to the extent where he will be the vice-captain this year,” Rodgers added.
“Jordan has been appointed the captain, but he’ll be a great ally for him because he leads by example.
“James is a wonderful, wonderful footballer and a big personality in the dressing room as well.”
Meanwhile, Stoke manager Mark Hughes insists the growing expectancy at the club does not frighten him.
Hughes guided the Potters to a record Premier League points total last season and a joint-highest finish of ninth place.
The Welshman has also overseen a change in Stoke’s style and got them playing a more attractive brand of football than predecessor Tony Pulis.
It has increased hopes among supporters of challenge for a European place in the forthcoming campaign, and Hughes is at ease with that pressure.
“I’ve never tried to manage expectation. It’s a good thing,” Hughes said. “It’s easy for a manager to underplay potential and then overachieve. But that’s not something I’m doing.
“I’ve always worked with expectation. It’s higher because of what we’ve achieved the past two years. However, it’s not something we’re apprehensive of.
“We’ll just try keep building and moving forward because everyone is spending money and progressing.”
Hughes is without centre-back Ryan Shawcross, who has been ruled out for two months with an ongoing back injury that requires surgery.
Marc Wilson (ankle) is a doubt so Geoff Cameron is poised to partner Marc Muniesa at the heart of the Stoke defence, while forward Marko Arnautovic (thigh) will not be risked.