By this time last season Liverpool’s title challenge had already taken a significant turning for the worse, with Roy Hodgson struggling (and failing) to grind out results amidst the on-going ownership saga. It was in November that Liverpool played at Stoke’s Brittania Stadium and came away with a hollow feeling, a 2-0 loss, and no points.
This time around things are different, with King Kenny having instilled a new optimism into the team – and taking them (for a night at least) to the top of the table. A whole lot of dead wood was shifted out in the last few days of the transfer window, perhaps freeing up cash for a star January purchase, whilst Craig Bellamy returned for a second stint at the club. All in all things couldn’t possibly have gone any better for Liverpool really!
Bellamy is set to start on the bench against Stoke, along with now-fit Andy Carroll. Dalglish is expected to keep his trust in the 4-5-1, and the eleven players who did a great job against Bolton. Reina will have his goals defended by Enrique, Carragher, Agger and Skrtel, whilst Downing, Adam, Henderson, Lucas and Kuyt will be aiming to dominate the midfield. Suarez should start on his own – but expect Carroll and Bellamy to be used early if it appears that the Uruguayan is struggling against the burly Stoke back-line.
One player in the Stoke team that will interest Liverpool fans is Peter ‘the robot’ Crouch who, in spite of his recognised talents, was moved on again this summer. He never quite got the chances at Anfield and it remains to be seen whether he will be given a bigger chance in the midlands.
West Brom 0-1 Stoke (Shotton 89)
Liverpool 3 – 1 Bolton (Henderson 15, Skrtel 52, Adam 53)