MX23RW : Friday, April 26 00:29:26| >> :600:64641146:64641146:
Apr 8, 2017 at 3pm UK at ​bet365 Stadium
Attendance: 27,568
StokeStoke City
Walters (44')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Coutinho (70'), Firmino (72')

Preview: Stoke City vs. Liverpool

Sports Mole previews the Premier League encounter between Stoke City and Liverpool at the bet365 Stadium.

Stoke City play host to Liverpool at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday afternoon looking to reclaim a place in the top half of the Premier League table after four matches without success.

As for Liverpool, they will see this fixture as an opportunity to return to winning ways after they could only draw with Bournemouth in midweek.

Stoke City

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes watches on during his side's Premier League clash with Liverpool at Anfield on December 27, 2016© SilverHub

When Stoke battled their way to a goalless draw with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, there was every expectation - both inside and outside of the club - that they would kick on and solidify their place in the top 10 of the standings.

However, while they could count themselves unfortunate to slip to a 2-1 defeat at home to leaders Chelsea, they have not shown enough in away fixtures at both Leicester City and Burnley and Mark Hughes has a job on his hands to rally his players ahead of the visit of the Merseyside giants.

Given their eight-point cushion above the dropzone, Stoke probably have enough in reserve to ensure that they do not become embroiled in a fight to remain in the Premier League, but their form will be a worry to Hughes as he looks to take the club a further step forward.

The Potters boss takes pride from claiming three finishes of ninth place in a row, but he wants to bridge the gap between themselves and the likes of Everton and right now, his squad are underachieving.

Hughes is set to be boosted by the return of Xherdan Shaqiri, and he will hope that the Swiss winger can play a part in helping the club's attacking players rediscover their touch in the final third, with no goals being scored from open play in four games.

Saido Berahino is without a goal in 378 minutes since signing from West Bromwich Albion, while Peter Crouch has also gone 342 minutes without hitting the back of the net after previously scoring four times in six matches.

Recent form: LWDLLL


Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp watches on during his side's Premier League clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford on January 15, 2017© SilverHub

Throughout this season, much has been made of Liverpool's apparent lack of strength in depth, and Jurgen Klopp has now reached a stage where the faith he has placed in some of his players needs to be repaid.

Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane have arguably been Liverpool's two best players this season but while Lallana could potentially be back by the start of May, his offensive teammate has been ruled out for the remainder of the season.

The Senegalese forward has contributed 13 goals in 27 league appearances during the current campaign so he will inevitably be missed, but it hands an opportunity to Divock Origi to deputise after eight months of being in and out of the side.

So far, the young Belgian has chipped in with goals in his last two appearances, but it remains to be seen whether he can continue to contribute as the club look to maintain their hopes of achieving a place in next season's Champions League.

Much has been made of Liverpool not having to play any of the league's top seven sides for the rest of the season, but it is in games against the so-called lesser sides where problems have been encountered, and Klopp needs his players to demonstrate that they can raise their performance against opposition in the bottom half of the table.

Recent form: LWWDWD

Team News

Philippe Coutinho in action during the Premier League game between Liverpool and Burnley on March 12, 2017© SilverHub

As well as the injuries to Lallana and Mane, Klopp also faces a dilemma over the potential inclusion of Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazilian has been absent from the training ground because of illness, and Klopp must decide whether he can play a part in Saturday's squad.

Klopp has also revealed that the game comes too early for Jordan Henderson, but Daniel Sturridge could potentially be fit enough to feature on the bench.

Hughes has confirmed that Shaqiri is an "option" ahead of the game, while Jonathan Walters could also be available after concussion.

There are doubts over both Marc Muniesa and Mame Biram Diouf after they sustained knocks in midweek.

Stoke City possible starting lineup:
Grant, Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters, Cameron, Adam, Allen, Afellay, Arnautovic, Crouch

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Moreno, Leiva, Can, Wijnaldum, Milner, Firmino, Origi

Head To Head

Saturday's fixture represents the 152nd time that these two sides have faced each other in a competitive match, with Liverpool holding 75 victories in comparison to 36 wins for the Potters.

Liverpool have been successful in seven of the last 10 games between the two sides, but Stoke still hold three wins during that period.

Half of the last eight encounters have seen one of the sides score more than four goals in a game, while there has not been a draw between the clubs since October 2012.

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We say: Stoke City 1-1 Liverpool

Liverpool make the short trip to Staffordshire without two of their key players, but Stoke also have problems given their lack of points in their last four matches. This has all the makings of a tight contest and we are backing a low-scoring draw.

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Stoke City
Stoke City
Sadio Mane in action for Liverpool on August 6, 2016
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