07 April 2017

Liverpool at Stoke 04.08.17

10am ET, live in the US on CNBC

Last four head-to-head:
4-1 Liverpool (h) 12.27.16
4-1 Liverpool (h) 04.10.16
0-1 Stoke (h, League Cup) 01.26.16
1-0 Liverpool (a, League Cup) 01.05.16

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-2 Bournemouth (a); 3-1 Everton (h); 1-1 City (a)
Stoke: 0-1 Burnley (a), 0-2 Leicester (a); 1-2 Chelsea (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Mané 13; Firmino 9; Coutinho 8; Lallana, Milner 7; Origi 6; Wijnaldum 5; Can 4; Lovren, Sturridge 2; Henderson, Matip 1
Stoke: Allen 6; Arnautovic 5; Crouch 4; Bojan, Shaqiri, Walters 3; Bony 2; Adam, Martins Indi, Muniesa, Shawcross 1

Referee: Mike Dean

Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Matip Lovren Milner
Wijnaldum Lucas Can
Sturridge Origi

Sadio Mané needs knee surgery. Both Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana are getting better, but neither are all that close to returning. And Philippe Coutinho remains ill, not at Melwood yesterday or today because of the virus which saw him depart Wednesday's match just after the hour.

So, how's your week going?

Neither illness nor a lack of mid-week training completely rules Coutinho out. And Daniel Sturridge is back, only fit enough to stay on the bench against Bournemouth but potentially capable of starting tomorrow. Screw it, let's go diamond.

Now, the above formation isn't really a diamond. It's basically the usual 4-3-3 with a different front three. Firmino will Firmino wherever Firmino wants while Sturridge works the inside right channel and Origi the inside left. The midfield three will play exactly as they have in the last two matches, for better and for worse.

If neither Sturridge nor Coutinho are fit enough to start, I honestly have no idea what Klopp will do. It'd seemingly have to be either 18-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right or 17-year-old Ben Woodburn on the left. Maybe Moreno – either in attack or at left-back with Milner in attack? And I also remain concerned about Lucas Leiva's ability to start three matches in a week.

There's a chance Marko Grujic, having made the bench against both Everton and Bournemouth, comes in, whether in place of Lucas, pushing Can into the holding role, or with Wijnaldum moving into the front three, but I remain doubtful. He's missed three months, he's hardly played for the u23s. Anything he does this season remains a bonus.

Meanwhile, Stoke have comfortably settled into their usual April "we're nowhere close to the top and far enough away from the bottom, is the season over yet?" groove. 12th in the table, amongst the same pack of sides where Bournemouth sit, eight points and goal difference clear of the relegation zone. And winless in the last month, losing their last three matches against Chelsea, at Leicester, and at Burnley.

Stoke have a reasonably good defense and a surprisingly paltry attack, especially considering the glut of attacking midfielders in the squad. They've only kept four clean sheets in the 13 matches since the start of the New Year, but one of those was against Manchester City at Manchester City, and they've given up more than two goals in a match just once during that stretch: a 4-0 drubbing at Tottenham.

It will not be easy for a Liverpool side missing four of its preferred front six to make the necessary break-through.

Still, a side with Shaqiri, Arnautovic, Berahino, Bony, Walters, Diouf, Bojan, and Afellay should have more than 33 goals through 31 matches; only Burnley, Hull, Sunderland, and Boro have scored fewer. Of course, Burnley, Hull, and Sunderland all scored twice against Liverpool on their own ground already this season so that may not be the best barometer.

My guess is Grant; Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Cameron, Adam; Walters, Allen, Arnautovic; Berahino. Sobhi, Afellay, Bojan, Diouf, and Shaqiri other options on the flanks, Whelan could (and probably should) start ahead of Adam in midfield, and Crouch or possibly Walters might play up front. Diouf, Walters, and Shaqiri are carrying minor injuries but should be available; Ireland and Butland are the only confirmed absentees. Three at the back, something Stoke deployed more often earlier in the season but less so of late, is a possibility but seems unlikely.

Obviously, a response is needed after Wednesday's disappointment. And Liverpool don't have the best record with responses, at least if they're not playing a top-seven side. Liverpool beat Tottenham and Arsenal convincingly after defeats at Hull and Leicester but 3-4 Bournemouth was followed by 2-2 West Ham; 2-2 Sunderland was followed by 0-0 Plymouth and 0-1 Southampton; 2-3 Swansea was followed by 0-1 Southampton and 1-2 Wolves.

There are seven games left. And a response is needed.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Nate. I love these. Makes my fridays better. Hoping for a win.