Liverpool welcome Stoke City to Anfield this afternoon where they attempt to make up lost ground following an unremarkable Christmas and New Year programme where there the team managed only five points from a possible 12 over the four games.
It’s likely Kenny Dalglish will recall Jose Enrique to the back four to join Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson who have proved so effective thus far this season. Jay Spearing misses out due o the hamstring injury he picked up in the 1-0 victory over Manchester City in the week. Charlie Adam is the best bet to join Jordan Henderson in the engine room with Stewart Downing providing on either flank. I’d like to see Maxi Rodriguez get a start because he seems to add some much needed invention to the midfield long with his goal-scoring abilities. Something the team misses when he’s not playing.
The attack is where Dalglish will earn his money this weekend and he has a dilemma on his hands due to the absent Luis Suarez. Personally I’d like to see Craig Bellamy as a lone striker with Steven Gerrard playing behind. This is a very effective position for Gerrard, perhaps where he is most effective. In reality, we’re probably going to see Dalglish keep faith in the erratic Andy Carroll although to be fair to him, he does need a run in the side. At this point though one has to wonder just how long a run Carroll can and will be given. The side does not play enough to Carroll’s strengths. However having said that, if you play £35mln for a player, the least you’d expect is that he’s adaptable. Whichever way you look at it, I’d be hard-pressed to say Carroll was money well spent. For my humble brain, there’s no point in sending that amount of money on “potential”. A young Pele in his prime, yes, Andy Carroll… Er… No!
Stoke have a mini injury crisis on their hands which can only help Dalglish’s men. Ryan Shotton, Marc Wilson and Jonathan Woodgate (surprise surprise) are all injured so Tony Pulis will have to draw on squad players to deputise for the missing trio. This game is cetainly not as easy as some would expect. A glimpse at the Premiership table shows Stoke are only five points behind Liverpool. They’ve been one of the surprise packages this season along with Newcastle. Above the Reds, Arsenal two points ahead on 36 points and the inconsistent Chelsea on 37. As if I haven’t said this enough this season, here is a match Liverpool need to win. Chelsea are at home to a resurgent Sunderland side, enriched by the arrival of Martin O’Neil and Arsenal have a tricky fixture away to Swansea tomorrow.
As regular readers will know I don’t do predictions. However, what I would suggest is a 3-1 victory for Liverpool. It’s about time some of these post and crossbar destined shots began to go in and I believe, like every other long-suffering footy fan, that it could begin to happen now. This is the time in the season when things begin to “even themselves out” to coin a phrase.
By Ben Green
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