Jan 5, 2016 at 8pm UK at ​bet365 Stadium
StokeStoke City
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Ibe (37')
Mignolet (73')

Preview: Stoke City vs. Liverpool

Sports Mole looks ahead to the first leg of the League Cup semi-final between Stoke City and Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium.

Having lost their respective Premier League fixtures at the weekend, both Stoke City and Liverpool will feel that they have points to prove when they meet in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final at the Britannia Stadium on Tuesday night.

The hosting Potters are one-time winners of the competition, while the visitors from Merseyside have lifted the trophy a record eight times.


Stoke City boss Mark Hughes watches on during the game with Everton on December 28, 2015© Getty Images

When Mark Hughes looks back over Stoke's last few outings, he is likely to harbour mixed feelings.

There have been disappointing defeats inflicted by Crystal Palace and more recently West Bromwich Albion, while a goalless draw was also played out with West Ham United at Upton Park.

However, his side have also lifted themselves against the so-called bigger clubs, which is bound to fill him with confidence ahead of Liverpool's visit to the Britannia Stadium.

The two Manchester clubs were both comfortably disposed of in the Potteries last month and Everton were also on the wrong end of a seven-goal thriller at Goodison Park.

They have also been impressive in the League Cup, albeit requiring penalty shootouts on two occasions. Luton Town and Chelsea were beaten from the spot, with victories to nil against Championship outfits Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday thrown into the bargain.

It means that Stoke are now on the verge of reaching their first League Cup final since their triumph in 1972. Chelsea were the big favourites, given that they had won the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in the previous two seasons, but goals from Terry Conroy and George Eastham secured victory for the men in red and white stripes.

Recent form (all competitions): LDLWWL


Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp holds the drinks bottles as he stands on the touchline during the English League Cup quarter-final football match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England on December 2© Getty Images

If there was any doubt prior to Liverpool's trip to West Ham at the weekend, there can be no argument now that Jurgen Klopp's honeymoon period is well and truly over.

Although there were three 1-1 draws at the start of the German's tenure, the Reds soon recorded impressive victories away at Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton - the latter of which was a 6-1 demolition in the previous round of the League Cup.

Since then, though, the task that lies ahead of Klopp has become apparent. West Bromwich Albion claimed a point from their visit to Anfield, but it is the away form that will be causing the former Borussia Dortmund head coach the most concern.

Of their last four matches on the road, Liverpool have lost three of them without finding the net. In fact, their only victory during that sequence came at the home of struggling Sunderland, who at the time were winless in their previous four fixtures.

Aside from their annihilation of the Saints, the Reds have not exactly set the world alight in the League Cup this term. They required penalties to advance beyond League Two Carlisle United, before a narrow 1-0 win was recorded at home against Bournemouth.

Having won the tournament on more occasions than any other team, Klopp's men are gunning for a ninth triumph. As it stands their closest rivals to that accolade are five-time champions Arsenal and Chelsea.

Recent form: DDLWWL

Team News

Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Capital One Cup quarter final match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on December 2, 2015 in Southampton, England.© Getty Images

Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi scored five of Liverpool's six goals against the Saints, yet both are expected to be sidelined with injuries for this encounter.

As a result Christian Benteke is likely to retain his role as the lone centre-forward, but captain Jordan Henderson, vice-skipper James Milner and centre-back Martin Skrtel are rated as doubtful.

As for Joe Gomez and Danny Ings, they remain long-term absentees with cruciate knee ligament complaints.

Meanwhile, Stoke boss Hughes will be without the services of Marc Muniesa, Stephen Ireland and veteran goalkeeper Shay Given, all of whom are injured.

On the flip side, Jonathan Walters will be hopeful of forcing his way into the starting lineup, having found the net as a substitute last time out against West Brom.

Stoke possible starting lineup:
Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters; Cameron, Whelan, Shaqiri, Walters, Arnautovic; Bojan

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno; Lucas, Can; Lallana, Firmino, Coutinho; Benteke

Head To Head

Liverpool's recent trips to the Britannia Stadium have produced mixed results, having won 1-0 there on the opening day of the season to follow on from the 6-1 thrashing that they were dealt in Steven Gerrard's last game for the club in May.

The League Cup, though, is where they have the upper hand over Stoke. On their way to winning the competition in 1995, 2001 and 2012, Liverpool got the better of the Potters in one of the earlier rounds.

The meeting in 2000 was particularly memorable as Liverpool hit eight goals past Stoke, who were then of the Second Division. Robbie Fowler netted a hat-trick that night, with defenders Markus Babbel and Sami Hyypia also on the scoresheet.

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We say: Stoke 1-0 Liverpool

Stoke have been able to lift themselves for the biggest games of late, while in contrast Liverpool have been poor on the road. With none of their key players likely to return from injury, it could be another miserable trip for the away fans, although they will have a second leg to salvage the situation.

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Jordan Henderson of Liverpool FC passes the ball during the international friendly match between Adelaide United and Liverpool FC at Adelaide Oval on July 20, 2015
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