Liverpool begin the new season where they ended the last, but will hope to fare rather better this time at the Britannia Stadium after their 6-1 humiliation back in May.
It was a result that said as much about the progress Stoke have made as how shambolic Liverpool’s showing was. The home side achieved their highest Premier League points tally last term and are showing a real ambition to break into the top six. It could also be argued that they have the necessary quality, with Ibrahim Afellay and Joselu adding to a squad that already contains impressive strength in depth.
That said, they have also lost two key players in the shape of goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and Steven N’Zonzi, whose stylish, reassuring midfield presence will be missed. The race to finish in the top half this season promises to be intense, but the Potters are a side that is surely worth backing, given that they are now established and can give any of the top clubs a tough game. Indeed, they may just be marginal favourites to come out on top here.
Much has changed over the summer at Liverpool. A lot of money has been spent on bringing Christian Benteke, Nathaniel Clyne and Roberto Firmino among others, and it remains to be seen how quickly they will settle in their new surroundings. With a host of striking options now available, the key now for manager Brendan Rodgers – who just about managed to keep his job – is to strike the right balance and find a suitable system to get the best out of the new boys.
However, the biggest story concerning the Reds this summer has surrounded the exit of Raheem Sterling, who apparently lost faith in the club’s ability to win silverware. They will be desperate to end the wait this time around, but very few seem to be fancying them to make even the top four after they fell from title contenders to sixth place. Now is the time to start proving people wrong.
Bojan could feature for Stoke for the first time since January, but captain Ryan Shawcross will be missing for two months due to back surgery. Marko Arnautovic and Marc Wilson are major doubts.
James Milner is among a number of players who could make their Liverpool debut, but Joe Allen, Jon Flanagan and Daniel Sturridge are unavailable through injury.
Last Meeting: Steven Gerrard marked his final game in a Liverpool shirt with a goal, but the day was ruined for him by an abject performance which saw them 5-0 down by half-time. Mame Biram Diouf scored twice along with goals from Jonathan Walters and Steven N’Zonzi, while Charlie Adam and Peter Crouch were both on target against their former club as Stoke recorded their biggest Premier League win.
Played for both – Salif Diao: Brought to Liverpool by Gerard Houllier in 2002 after a strong World Cup for Senegal, the defensive midfielder struggled to make an impression and featured sparingly before joining Stoke in 2007 after an initial loan spell. He helped them to promotion and stayed until 2012, with his late winner at Portsmouth in February 2010 proving to be his only one for them in the league.