By Frank Sale (Guest Writer)
After two successive cup games, Liverpool return to league action this Saturday afternoon with a home fixture against Stoke City. The Reds have already met Tony Pulis` men on two occasions this season, suffering a contentious 1-0 defeat at the Britannia in September before gaining a degree of revenge a month later with a 2-1 victory in the Carling Cup.
Dalglish's side have been far too inconsistent at home this season. While they are unbeaten in 10 league matches at Anfield, they have drawn four of them. However, since the return of Steven Gerrard, Liverpool's frail look since Suarez's absence, not to forget Lucas', who was outstanding for the Reds, has suddenly disappeared. Gerrard has led from the front since his return, and after seizing an important advantage in their attempt to reach Wembley for the first time since 1996, Liverpool will be hoping to continue their impressive recent run of form.
A clash with Tony Pulis' Stoke is the first of three very winnable games for Liverpool, with meetings against Bolton and Wolves to follow. Liverpool will host Tottenham and travel to Old Trafford for a clash with Manchester United after those first outings. Stoke have been on a rise of their own however, and are not to be underestimated. Recent progress in the FA Cup following a 1 – 3 away victory against League Two side Gillingham and entering the round of 32 in the Europa League is indeed worth the praise. Also, with the Potters being the current incumbents of the eighth spot in the League, it is safe to say that all is well at the Britannia. But, Anfield is a very hard place for them to go on Saturday and Matthew Etherington and Jonathan Walters, who have both laid on five assists this campaign, will need to produce their best if Stoke are to come away with anything.
Liverpool will be brimming with confidence after recent results and I expect them to come away with a comfortable three points. The Reds will be without Lucas and Suarez, with Spearing 'touch and go' according to Dalglish. Henderson will be the player to watch this weekend after his impressive, energy-sapping performance vs Manchester City, and along with Downing, Adam and Bellamy will provide a strong source of pace and creativity behind Gerrard, who could start just behind Carroll. Former Red Peter Crouch will lead the attack for Stoke and will be trying to score his first goal against them in his ninth attempt.
Stoke have scored just eight goals away from home so far this season. Only Fulham have a worse record having netted just six times on their travels. Equally worrying for the Potters is the fact that Liverpool have conceded just eight times at home in the league, a statistic bettered only by Arsenal and Manchester City. All games kick off at 3PM tomorrow.