Liverpool ended 2015 with two consecutive wins and was hopeful of starting 2016 with another, but things went wrong for Liverpool when they lost 2-0 to West Ham. Liverpool do not have much time to cry over their defeat because they will have to return to action on Tuesday to face Stoke in the Capital One Cup semi-finals. Liverpool will be traveling to the Britannia Stadium in the first leg of the semi-finals. Liverpool have a big injury list and we cannot expect many changes from them despite the busy schedule. Here is Liverpool’s predicted line-up to face Stoke:
Goalkeeper – Simon Mignolet
It was Liverpool’s second goalkeeper, Adam Bogdan, who started in all their Capital One Cup matches, but we expect Mignolet to start against Stoke. Bogdan was given his first premier league start for Liverpool against Watford and he himself ruined the chance to be Liverpool’s number one. Bogdan made a blunder in the opening minutes of the game which led to Watford’s first goal. Since that mistake, his confidence has been low and he looked nervous throughout the game. Capital One Cup may not be a significant cup, but winning it will be a very good way to kick start the Klopp era at Liverpool. Playing Bogdan in the semi finals against Stoke is a huge risk because his confidence is low and the atmosphere at Britannia Stadium will give him more pressure. Bogdan will find it difficult to bring back his confidence and there are huge chances that he will put up another nervous performance. Playing Mignolet is a safer option for Liverpool.
Defense – Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho, Brad Smith
Liverpool might have conceded two goals against West Ham, but the defense were not Liverpool’s worst players on Saturday. The Liverpool defense have looked much better since Sakho and Lovren started playing together. Stoke’s main threat has been coming from the wings recently and the Liverpool full-backs should ensure that they give the Stoke attackers a tough time. Clyne has been very good defensively and Klopp does not have any other options for the right-back position. So it is very predictable that Clyne will continue in Liverpool’s starting line-up. Kolo Toure is the only centre-back option that Liverpool have apart from Sakho and Lovren at the moment. Sakho and Lovren look good together and the pair will be looking to build on their form together. Brad Smith might get a start for Liverpool and Alberto Moreno might get benched against Stoke. As stated before, Stoke’s main threat has been coming from the wings and the full backs should ensure that they give the Stoke attackers a tough time. Even though Moreno has improved lot of his defensive skills, he is often caught out of position giving way for the opponents to attack. And doing that against Stoke might prove costly. Brad Smith can do the defensive job better than Moreno and his crossing is not bad either. He has the ability to put in some amazing crosses and we saw one of it in Liverpool’s quarter-final fixture of the Capital One Cup against Southampton.
Midfield – Emre Can, Joe Allen, Jordon Ibe, Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino
Reports say that Joe Allen could leave Liverpool in January, however, we expect him to start against Stoke. After Henderson’s injury, Lucas played as the defensive midfielder, while Emre Can played as a central midfielder. Naturally, Emre Can is expected to support the attacking players and he is also expected to distribute the ball from midfield, but he has not been able to do it. Emre Can has been one of Liverpool’s few positives recently, but he is not having much influence in Liverpool’s attack. This might give Joe Allen one last chance. He will have to do what Can was not able to do. He will have to distribute the ball from the midfield. While Emre Can will have to do the dirty job as the defensive midfielder. Liverpool are very much affected with injuries and they do not have many options to rotate their players. Roberto Firmino is gaining confidence and he has been good recently. He was subbed off against West Ham and that is a huge hint that he will be starting against Stoke. Jordon Ibe started for Liverpool instead of Adam Lallana on Saturday, but he was not able to contribute much to the team. He is fresh and he is expected to start against Stoke. Philippe Coutinho has played four games in the last thirteen days and it might be time for Klopp to give him a rest. His form is down and a rest might help him to regain it.
Striker – Christian Benteke
Daniel Sturridge was expected to feature for Liverpool on Tuesday, but Jurgen Klopp again ruled him out and said he needs more time in training before returning to action. That leaves Christian Benteke as Liverpool’s only available striker. The Belgian scored two goals in Liverpool’s last three matches, but the Belgian is low on confidence. He will have to somehow find his form and build his confidence. He has received a lot of stick from the fans and he will have to respond by showing what he can do. He will have to step up his game in order to keep his position in the team. Liverpool have recalled Ryan Kent from his loan and he might feature for Liverpool on Tuesday. He is not a natural striker but he can play as a false nine or as a singer.