English Premier League

Stoke City vs Liverpool | Sunday 9th August | Britannia Stadium| 17:00

stoke liv-web_compressed

21/10   draw 9/4   5/4

Liverpool face a tough start to the 2015/16 campaign as they travel to the Britannia Stadium on Sunday to take on giant killers Stoke City. The Potters ousted the likes of Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester City, and Southampton and walloped Liverpool last season in a shocking 6-1 defeat. The Reds will be out to avenge that defeat and will return with some expensive new weapons.

Stoke City
Stoke finished the 2014-15 season with their highest-ever points tally in the Premier League—54—and closed the term with a 6-1 final-day drubbing of Liverpool, which was supposed to be a going away party for Steven Gerrard. When they got going, Stoke were capable of playing some lovely football, and Mark Hughes’ side will be looking to build on that going into this season. The Potters will be looking to start their season with a win and will fancy their chances against this revamped Liverpool side. Stoke have beaten the Reds four times in their last seven meetings at home, scoring at least three times in the last three meetings. Stoke have added to a squad that looked strong last year with some interesting players. Shay Given and Jakob Haugaard replace the outgoing Asmir Begovic and Tom Sorensen as experienced and inexperienced alternatives in goal to Jack Butland. Marco van Ginkel, brought in on loan from Chelsea as part of the Begovic deal, has big shoes to fill with the departure of Steven N’Zonzi. The 22-year-old Dutch midfielder possesses several impressive characteristics. Most obviously, he is a competitive and physical ball-winner, but van Ginkel combines this with quick speed of thought and ball retention. If he can find the form that brought him to the fore at Vitesse, he’ll be a superb signing. Ibrahim Afellay is another good acquisition that will add creativity and all-round quality to Stoke’s team. Once hailed as the next big thing when he moved to Barcelona, injuries wrecked his time at the Camp Nou. Afellay can provide great penetration going forward, as well as excellent distribution. The star player will most likely be Bojan Kirkic. On the back of a full pre-season and with a year’s worth of bedding in, he will have a big role as the attacking string-puller for Hughes’ midfield. He will be the centre of his team’s offence, picking out passes and carrying the ball towards the box with pace at the centre of the field, and hopefully scoring a few goals. He is a very threatening player when he captures his form. Up front, the rangy and powerful Mame Biram Diouf will lead the attack and look to unsettle the Reds defence. Diouf was a handful in Stoke’s annihilation of Liverpool last season where he scored a brace and he’ll be hoping to get on the scoresheet once again. Ex-Reds Charlie Adam, Peter Crouch and Glen Click-to-bet-now-300x40Johnson will also be looking to put in a good show in an effort for maximum points with the latter making his debut.

After a season of disappointment that reached an anti-climax with the heavy defeat at the Britannia Stadium, Liverpool go back to Stoke with much to prove and Brendan Rodgers feeling the pressure. Huge focus and attention will be on Liverpool for this season – particularly after last season’s disappointment. It’s been quite a busy summer for Liverpool and Rodgers has spent again. Gone is club icon Gerrard as well as rising star Raheem Sterling after a lengthy transfer saga. Liverpool have made some astute signings over the summer including James Milner, Danny Ings and Nathaniel Clyne as well as big money transfers of Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino. Divock Origi has also returned following a loan spell at Lille and the highly-rated Belgian will be looking to kick-start his promising career into stardom. The new blood coming into the club are welcome additions to the first team, in what looks like a very strong Liverpool squad. They are no longer reliant on Daniel Sturridge regaining fitness all the time, with Benteke and Ings who have both shown that they can score goals in England’s top flight. Creativity surges through the final third with Brazilians Firmino and Philippe Coutinho, in addition to the industry and productivity of captain Jordan Henderson and the ever-reliable Milner in the centre of the park. You can say what you like, but that is a side loaded with talent. Stoke are a physical team and the powerful presence of Benteke upfront should see some interesting battles transpire. The height and power of the Belgian will give Ryan Shawcross something to think about in terms of a physical challenge- something that Liverpool missed last season. Benteke scored on his debut in a 2-1 friendly win against Swindon last weekend and he’ll be hoping to get on the score-sheet here.

Probable line-ups:

Stoke City: 4-1-2-3
Butland; Johnson, Wollscheid, Shawcross, Pieters; Van Ginkel; Ireland, Adam; Afellay, Bojan, Diouf

Liverpool: 4-2-3-1
Mignolet; Clyne, Sakho, Skrtel, Moreno; Henderson, Milner; Ibe, Firmino, Coutinho; Benteke

Prediction: Liverpool
Liverpool have added a wealth of attacking talent to their squad which should give them an extra bit of quality that they lacked last season. The attack should be potent with Benteke in the mix. Putting him up top in front of an attacking midfield trio that will contain Coutinho, Firmino and Ibe should be enough to get their revenge against Stoke. Back the Reds at 5/4.

Chadley Nagel

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