Liverpool are going into Christmas Day in second place and they will be hoping to challenge in 2017. They have a great opportunity to record a high finish and should be more ambitious than simply finishing in the top four. Their opponents on Tuesday are Stoke and they are placed nicely in mid table after a poor start to the season. Mark Hughes has done a great job, but they now need to make the next step and challenge in the top half of the Premier League. For them to do that, they need to compete against the best teams in the league and this match provides them with a good opportunity to show that they can.
The Reds are six points behind Chelsea and four points above 5th placed Spurs. Although there will be ambition of pushing Chelsea, there will also be an awareness that they aren’t guaranteed a top four finish. That said, Jurgen Klopp has done an excellent job and there is still room for improvement as they continue to add quality to the squad. They will look to add in January and that could provide them with the momentum required to really push for the title. Klopp will know that winning the title is a tough ask, especially as Chelsea are six points ahead, but he is ambitious and will want his players to push them all the way.
Stoke are currently in 11th and will want to push on for a top half finish in 2017. They certainly have the talent in their squad to push on in the second half of the season. Hughes’ men have had a blip recently, taking a possible two points from nine and losing a two goal lead against ten men last weekend. It has been a concern, but Hughes knows the importance of bouncing back. During the second half of last season, Stoke went on an awful run of form and fell down the league table. They can’t afford a similar run of results this season.
In this fixture last season, Liverpool triumphed 4-1 and played some superb football. Alberto Moreno, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi (2) scored the goals for the Reds on that day. Bojan scored a consolation for the visitors. Meanwhile, Liverpool also took the points at the Bet365 Stadium thanks to a solitary goal from Philippe Coutinho.
- Liverpool have the best attack in the Premier League, finding the back of the net on 41 occasions. This is three more than the next best, which is Arsenal.
- Joe Allen has scored one more goal during this season than he has in his previous four seasons combined.
The Senegal ace will be missed when he goes to play in the African Cup of Nations, but he will be available for this one and he will cause a lot of problems for Stoke. His pace and movement has been a great addition to the Liverpool front line, while his work rate makes him perfect for the system being coached by Jurgen Klopp. He presses well and has become a better decision maker since moving to Anfield. At Southampton, he was inconsistent and didn’t contribute as many goals and assists as he could have. There were doubts about whether he would be a good signing for Liverpool, but he has shown his impressive mentality and upped his game. He deserves to be a first team regular at Anfield and will believe there is further room for improvement over the coming years. Mane scored the winner in the Merseyside derby on Monday and will be hoping to have a similar decisive impact against Stoke.
His career has been on an upwards trajectory since the summer after a superb European Championships with Wales. Although a move from Liverpool to Stoke City may look like a step down, Allen is now playing regularly and is becoming a more prominent figure in the Premier League. He has improved Stoke as he provides a link between the defence and attack. Giannelli Imbula and Glenn Whelan are both good Premier League midfielders, but neither possesses the vision that Allen does. This season, the Welshman has added goals to his game with his attacking contribution standing at five goals and two assists. Considering he isn’t one of their primary goal threats, this is an impressive contribution and shows the intelligence in Allen’s game. He will be important on Tuesday as he returns to his old club as he is capable of influencing the game to benefit Stoke. Liverpool’s defence is far from secure, despite some improvements of late and Allen has the quality to impact the game in a positive way,
Divock Origi and Marko Grujic are both doubts for this match, while Philippe Coutinho is closing in on a return after his spell out with an ankle injury. Joel Matip is another injury doubt as he continues to struggle with an ankle problem. Danny Ings remains a long term injury concern.
Stephen Ireland, Jack Butland, Phil Bardsley and Geoff Cameron will all miss out through injury. Meanwhile, Marko Arnautovic will be serving the second match of his ban.
It is difficult to look beyond Liverpool for this weekend given their impressive performances this season. Their problem over the past few weeks has been fatigue, but they will be coming into this one after a full week of rest and that will benefit them hugely. They are coming up against a side that can pose a lot of problems when on form, but they have been struggling in recent weeks and a trip to Anfield isn’t what they would have wanted to try and recover from that. Liverpool need to maintain pressure on Chelsea and make sure that there is at least one team in pouncing distance if the Blues slip up.