By Christopher Boulay
Stoke City has played at Anfield 49 times with both sides in the top division. The Potters have never won any of those meetings. If Liverpool has a trap match on its fixture list this season, it’s likely Sunday’s match with the physical side from Staffordshire, due to the fact that the Reds’ defense has been suspect – at best – all season.
In the Premier League era, Liverpool has beaten Stoke two times, lost two times and drawn three times in league play at both Anfield and the Britannia.
The recent history between the two clubs may make some fans wary of another home struggle, but the previous 5-2 win against Norwich City in the league will make some feel confident that the offense is finally clicking. Additionally, this goal burst last weekend, combined with the impressive possession ability by the Reds, may show that manager Brendan Rodgers has helped the club finally turn the corner.
The club will need to emulate the impressive form in that match, as well as the dominant performance in the first half of the loss to Udinese on Thursday. Any repeat of the lazy performance during the second half in the Europa League match could give Stoke an ability to take charge at Anfield.
Stoke City experienced a decent start to the Premier League season. The club started off with four draws in as many matches, against Reading, Arsenal, Wigan and Manchester City. After a loss to league leaders Chelsea, the Potters managed to overcome Swansea City 2-0 last weekend.
There will be some familiar faces returning to Anfield who will look to make the day difficult for Liverpool. Jermaine Pennant, Charlie Adam, Peter Crouch and Michael Owen could all feature for the Potters on Sunday. This will be Adam’s first opportunity to face the Reds since his sale to Stoke on deadline day.
Crouch will be the biggest threat to the Liverpool defense, as the English international has five goals already this season. Forward Jonathan Walters has two goals for the Potters this campaign. For Liverpool, Luis Suarez has seven goals, while Steven Gerrard and Nuri Sahin have three each.
A win for Liverpool is not only important to help make up ground after the poor start to the season, but it may be necessary for the players to feel confident heading into the international break. After the break, the club faces Anzhi Makhachkala in Europa League, as well as Reading, Everton and Swansea, to end October.
The road doesn’t get much easier for Stoke, as the club will face Manchester United after the break, with Sunderland on the final weekend of the month.
Two players are suspended for the match, as Jonjo Shelvey and Andy Wilkinson are each serving their third of three domestic match bans.
The match will be televised in the United States on Fox Soccer Plus at 10am. Fans in the greater Boston area can head to The Phoenix Landing and watch with LFC Boston.
Liverpool v Manchester United
When: Sunday, October 7, 1000 EST/1500 GMT
Where: Anfield, Liverpool
Previous Premier League match: Norwich City 2-5 Liverpool, Stoke City 2-0 Swansea City
League Position 2011-12: Liverpool 14th (5 points), Stoke City 12th (7 points)
Projected Stoke City Starting 11
DEF: Cameron, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson
MID: Kightly, Whelan, Adam, Nzonzi
FW: Crouch, Walters
Subs from: Sorensen, Etherington, Whitehead, Upson, Edu, Shotton, Palacios, Ness, Delap, Jerome, Pennant, Owen, Jones
Projected Liverpool Starting 11
DEF: Wisdom, Agger, Skrtel, Johnson
MID: Gerrard, Allen, Sahin
FW: Sterling, Suarez, Borini
Subs from: Jones, Enrique, Flanagan, Coates, Carragher, Robinson, Cole, Henderson, Suso, Downing, Assaidi, Morgan, Yesil
Interact: What’s your projected lineup and final score prediction? Comment below.