10am Eastern Time, live in the US on Setanta.
Last 4 head-to-head:
8-0 Liverpool (a; League Cup) 11.29.2000
2-1 Liverpool (h; League Cup) 10.25.1994
3-2 Liverpool (a; League Cup) 10.09.1991
2-2 (h; League Cup) 09.25.1991
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 2-1 Marseille (a); 2-1 United (h); 0-0 Villa (a)
Stoke: 2-3 Everton (h); 1-2 Boro (a); 3-2 Cheltenham (a)
Referee: Andre Marriner. Sigh. Since ynwa.tv doesn’t have a post up, I’ll quickly summarize. Marriner was at the helm for Liverpool’s first league loss last season at Reading, ignoring two very good penalty shouts, as well as the draw at Boro. I do not like Andre Marriner.
Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Skrtel Hyypia Dossena
Kuyt Gerrard Alonso Riera
I really could either way with the line-up. It’s no secret I’m a big fan of the 4-2-3-1, and was very glad to see it back on Tuesday.
However, I would be very surprised if Benitez doesn’t return to the 4-4-2 for league play, especially with Liverpool at home against a promoted (but clearly dangerous) team. Plus, I would be very, very surprised to see the £19.3m Keane on the bench for two matches in a row.
As both Gerrard and Torres returned last match, each playing a bit more than an hour, both should be fit and available on Saturday, and if that’s the case, both should start.
That Riera, Keane, and Alonso were on the bench, but fit, makes me think we’ll see all three on from the start on Saturday, with Babel most likely reprising his role off the bench. Even with the Dutchman’s continued development, I’d be surprised if Benitez gave him two starts in the space of five days. It was very hard to leave Mascherano out of my guess at a line-up – I can’t imagine how hard it is for Rafa – but his defensive mopping-up shouldn’t be as needed as it was against either United or Marseille, and he did have that knee problem against United.
I also know it’s a sin to omit Carragher from any line-up, but Skrtel’s played very well of late and both his and Hyypia’s aerial presence will be needed against Stoke, especially against the long throw they used so well against Everton last week. I highly doubt Hyypia would miss a game like this, especially since he’s not on the CL roster.
As said earlier, Liverpool cannot underrate Stoke. They may lie in 19th, but they beat a team that Liverpool could only draw (and failed to score against), and gave both Boro and Everton a real run for their money. Liverpool’s susceptibility on set plays, even if it hasn’t been an issue so far this season, really frightens me with Delap’s long throws.
It was said best in the sub-headline on the official site’s article with Benitez’ pre-match quotes: “Rafael Benitez admits last week's triumph over Manchester United will count for nothing if his side fail to beat Barclays Premier League newcomers Stoke City tomorrow.”
The last two wins were absolutely enormous for the club – both the results and the confidence boost – especially the one six days ago. Leaving Anfield without three points tomorrow would throw almost all of that hard work away.