The Britania Stadium, Stoke
Tuesday, 5th December, 2016.
It’s the business end of the season. At least in the context of the English League cup, as we head into the semi finals of the competition. Both Liverpool FC and Stoke City would be pumped up to grab what seems to be their only chance of winning silverware this season and we should be in for a cracker of a game.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Stoke City FC
Ever since taking over at the club, Mark Hughes seems to have completely transformed Stoke City from the rough and tough side they once were, to the team looking to play good football. Hughes however, has been clever enough to not completely alter the DNA of Stoke City.
The back-line of the team is still as strong as ever, and can bully even the biggest and the strongest forwards around the world. However, it is in the attacking third, where the real difference seems to have been made, with the infusion of creative players like Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay, Bojan Krikic, and Marko Arnautovic.
While the back four and the two defensive midfield pivots (Glenn Whelan and Charlie Adam) will try to be as big and strong and organised as ever, Hughes will be expecting all the magic from Stoke’s front four.
American defender Geoff Cameron’s red card against West Bromwich Albion was overturned, and he is set to take his place beside captain Ryan Shawcross, at the heart of the defence, with Erik Pieters and Glen Johnson flanking them.
However, Stoke can hurt even the best of sides with their magical front four, where Arnautovic, Afellay, and Shaqiri are expected to line up behind Bojan. This front four has hurt even the best of teams, like Chelsea FC and Manchester City, and Liverpool FC might end up being another one of their big scalps this season.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Butland; Pieters, Cameron, Shawcross, Johnson; Whelan, Adam; Arnautovic, Afellay, Shaqiri, Bojan.
The Reds have been on erratic form this season, and manager Jurgen Klopp’s recent criticism of his players seems to be testament to that fact. While the Reds are largely tipped to get some new signings in the current transfer window, Klopp would have to do with his current crop of players for the difficult trip to the Britania Stadium.
Even with the current squad, Klopp has a long list of injured players to deal with, as the likes of James Milner(calf), Divock Origi, and Martin Skrtel (hamstring) have all been ruled out of the match. Also club captain Jordan Henderson (heel) and star striker Daniel Sturridge (hamstring) are doubtful for the game with their respective injuries.
Klopp started with Brad Smith at left back against West Ham, and is expected to play the Australian fullback again, as he looks to build a solid back four. With Skrtel being injured both Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho would take up their positions in the middle of the defence, with Nathaniel Clyne playing right back. Since this is a cup competition, we can expect to see Adam Bogdan in goal.
The rest of the team is expected to be more or less the same, with Emre Can and Lucas Leiva manning the midfield, while Coutinho, Firmino, Lallana, and Benteke take up the attacking responsibilities in the front four of the 4-2-3-1.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Bogdan; Smith, Sakho, Lovren, Clyne; Leiva, Can; Coutinho, Firmino, Lallana; Benteke.
- Stoke City are on the three-match winning run.
- Liverpool FC have won only two of their last five matches.
- Liverpool FC have scored eight goals in their three League Cup ties this season.
- Stoke City have conceded just two goals in their four League Cup ties this season.
Player to watch out for
The Swiss international seems to have turned his career around with the summer move to Stoke City. With his help, the Potters have beaten the biggest of sides, in the form of Chelsea FC, Manchester City, and Manchester United. Now that another top english club comes knocking at their door, they would certainly have acknowledged Shaqiri as one of the biggest threats in the Stoke team.
Stoke City FC 3-1 Liverpool FC
Liverpool FC tend to do well against team that play possession football against them. However, Stoke are certainly not a team that would care about holding on to the ball, especially against a team with the quality of Liverpool FC. They would be looking to hit the Reds on the counter, and with pacey players like Arnautovic and Shaqiri on the wings, they could end up hurting Liverpool FC big time.