Stoke City .
9th August 2015; 1600 BST
When Liverpool FC face Stoke on Sunday, they will still carry the scars of their heaviest defeat in 52 years. 77 days since that 6-1 loss, plenty of things have changed at Anfield. There have been six new signings, most of which are expected to play a key role this season, especially Christian Benteke. The biggest change is the departure of the legendary Steven Gerrard, with the club now under a new captain – Jordan Henderson.
Stoke themselves have undergone big changes, adding eight players to their ranks, including the former Liverpool defender Glen Johnson and FC Barcelona’s Dutch winger Ibrahim Afellay.
Team news and tactics
Joe Allen, Daniel Sturridge, and Jon Flanagan will miss the game due to injuries. New recruits Roberto Firmino, Joe Gomez, James Milner, Christian Benteke, Nathaniel Clyne, Danny Ings are all expected to play a part in the game.
The surprise could be the inclusion of Joe Gomez over Alberto Moreno. Gomez has looked very sharp in pre-season, so much so that Rodgers sent the more experienced Andre Wisdom out on loan. Moreno had an indifferent start to life at Merseyside, with his defensive lapses costing the club in games against Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal FC, and Chelsea FC.
Jordan Ibe is also expected to get the nod ahead of Lazar Markovic, who increasingly looks out of place in the physical Premier League. Ibe earned rave reviews for his pre-season form and manager Brendan Rodgers had stated earlier that he will feature heavily for the Reds this season.
Lastly, the Brazilian duo of Coutinho and Roberto Firmino might not feature from the start due to their fitness not being at the peak. Both had returned late to the pre-season from Copa America duty.
Possible lineup (4-2-2-2): Mignolet (GK), Joe Gomez, Sakho, Skrtel, Clyne; Milner, Henderson; Lallana, Ibe; Benteke, Ings
Last season’s ninth-placed finish was a step in the right direction for manager Mark Hughes and the manager and the club knows the importance of building on that success. It is important that Stoke pick up plenty of points in the opening games and the game against Liverpool represents a good opportunity for The Potters to do the same.
Stoke have lost the services of Nzonzi, who had a fantastic season last time. To compound the problem, Stoke will be without captain Ryan Shawcross for at least two months, with the centre-back set to undergo surgery to treat a back problem. Marko Arnautovic and Marc Wilson are doubtful with respective thigh and ankle problems, but Bojan could make his return from injury.
New signings Ibrahim Afellay and Marco van Ginkel may miss out on starting berths, but, Glen Johnson is expected to feature on the right hand side of the defense.
Possible lineup (4-2-3-1): Butland (GK), Johnson, Pieters, Wilson, Wollschied; Sidwell, Wheelan; Diouf, Adam, Bojan; Joselu
Player to watch out for:
Christian Benteke (Liverpool FC)
The Belgian international was signed by Liverpool FC for 32.5 million GBP fee from Aston Villa, having scored a goal every other game for the Premier League strugglers. While there have been concerns among the Liverpool FC fans that he may find it difficult to adapt to the style of play deployed at Anfield, he was widely reported to be the prime target for manager Brendan Rodgers, indicating the confidence of the manager that the Belgian will fit into the system or adapt to it. With Stoke missing Shawcross, Benteke could bully the defense and get his career off to a great start. He certainly is fired up, and recently was quoted saying he wants to prove his doubters wrong who had accused him of not not being good enough with his feet to fit in the Liverpool FC style of play.
- Liverpool have failed to win their last 5 away matches in the Premier League.
- Liverpool have only failed to score three times on the opening weekend of a Barclays Premier League campaign (1992/93, 2005/06, 2012/13).
- Stoke have won once on the opening weekend of a BPL season, 2009/10 v Burnley
- Liverpool have won one of seven BPL matches at the Britannia Stadium (D2 L4), winning 5-3 in 2013/14.
- Stoke have scored in their last 11 home league matches; only Chelsea (19) can boast a longer current run.
- Last season, Stoke set new club records for most Premier League points (54), most wins (15) and most goals scored (48) despite only spending A?3.4m on transfers – less than any other top-flight club.
Stoke 1 a 2 Liverpool FC
The fact that Stoke are missing Shawcross and the loss of Nzonzi could significantly weaken their spine, having also lost Begovic. Expect Liverpool FC’s central midfield and Benteke to dominate and sneak through with a hard fought 2-1 win.