3pm ET, live in the US on FSC
Last four head-to-head:
0-2 Stoke (a) 11.13.10
1-1 (a) 01.16.10
4-0 Liverpool (h) 08.19.09
0-0 (a) 01.10.09
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-0 Fulham (h); 3-0 Wolves (a); 2-2 Everton (h)
Stoke: 1-0 Wolves (a); 0-2 Fulham (a); 2-0 Cardiff (a)
Liverpool: Gerrard, Kuyt 4; Maxi 3; Kyrgiakos, Meireles, Ngog 2; Cole, Johnson, Skrtel 1
Stoke: Jones 5; Etherington, Huth 4; Fuller, Walters 3; Whitehead 2; Delap, Faye, Higginbotham, Wilson 1
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Guess at a line-up:
Kelly Carragher Agger Johnson
Kuyt Meireles Maxi
Don't expect immediate gratification from Liverpool's new £58m strike force. Andy Carroll's out for a couple of weeks with a lingering thigh strain. Liverpool haven't dropped any hints, but as long as the paperwork's completed, Luis Suarez should be available. However, he's just coming off a two-month vacation thanks to a seven-match ban for biting an opponent. The Uruguayan's most likely to come off the bench if he sees action at all.
Except for the gaping hole in the center of the attack after Torres pranced off to West London, the side should look very similar to the team which faced Fulham. Ngog seems the most natural replacement, having been the understudy for the last two seasons, but he's seen limited action since Dalglish took the reins, with only two late substitute appearances coming against United and Blackpool. I wouldn't be wholly surprised to see Dirk Kuyt revert to his previous role as main striker, where he played before Torres arrived. Liverpool has few options up front until Carroll's fit.
Wednesday could see the return of Jamie Carragher, back in training after dislocating his shoulder in November. I wonder if he'd be better served eased back into the lineup, but with Skrtel still shaky and Chelsea on Sunday, if Carra's available, Carra will play. Lucas should also return to the starting XI after a slight knock kept him out against Fulham.
Stoke, in 10th, are two points behind Liverpool with a game in hand. The Potters finish January having added John Carew while losing Tuncay and Gudjohnsen. As usual, Stoke is Stoke is Stoke: physical, hard-working, and perpetually dangerous on set plays. Carew only adds to that; he, Jones, and Fuller are all handfuls. Danny Higginbotham is Stoke's only injury concern now that Sidibe's back from an extended absence, while center-back Shawcross is suspended.
Liverpool can't ruminate on one player's dramatic exit or look past Stoke to Sunday's enormous match at the Bridge. The season's still in a tenuous state, with Liverpool having finally, narrowly worked their way up to the heady heights of seventh. The bottom of the table's still far closer than the top, and Liverpool have only won two consecutive games. Plus, there's still an embarrassing 0-2 result from the reverse fixture to avenge.