The first game of the 2013/2014 Premier League season sees a new look Stoke City head to Anfield to take on Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool in Saturdays early kick off.
Liverpool will be looking to push on under Brendan Rodgers this season and challenge for a Champions League place after finishing 7th in their last campaign. The former Swansea manager has boosted his squad with the signings of Iago Aspas, Luis Alberto, Kolo Toure and Simon Mignolet, while Andy Carroll, Jonjo Shelvey, Pepe Reina, Jay Spearing and Stewart Downing have all been shown the exit door and Jamie Carragher has retired.
Stoke begin a Premier League campaign for the first time without Tony Pulis after he was replaced by Mark Hughes during the summer. Hughes will be looking to improve on Stoke’s poor form in front of goal last season, with only relegated QPR (30) scoring fewer goals than The Potters (34) last season. However, it is in defence that Mark Hughes has strengthened so far with the signings of Erik Pieters from PSV and Marc Muniesa from Barcelona.
Five of the ten Premier League matches between these two sides have finished in draws, with Stoke winning three and Liverpool winning the other two.
However, Stoke have struggled at Anfield since they joined the Premier League in 2008, failing to score in any of their 5 matches. Three of the five matches have finished 0-0 including the last two, with Liverpool winning the other two matches 2-0 and 4-0.
Stoke fans will benefit from free travel to the game, after the club announced earlier in the summer that due to an increase in TV revenue the club will pay for the fans to attend all 19 away games this season.
Luis Suarez misses out for Liverpool with his Anfield future still unclear, while Brendan Rodgers expects both Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel to be fit to face Stoke. Daniel Sturridge returned last week in a pre season friendly with Celtic, but it is unclear whether the former Chelsea player will start.
Stoke head to Anfield with a fully fit squad for Mark Hughes’ first game in charge.
- Liverpool have had 33 shots(Including blocked) in their last two home games with Stoke but have failed to score.
- Stoke have only managed 9 shots in their last two trips to Anfield.
- There have only been 6 shots on target in the last two games at Anfield between these two teams (Liverpool: 3 Stoke: 3)
- Stoke have not won in the League at Anfield since March 20th 1959.
- Liverpool have won 46 of the 62 league matches at Anfield between these two sides, with Stoke winning 3.
- Stoke have only managed 4 shots on target in their last 3 trips to Anfield in the league.
- Ryan Shawcross and Jon Walters have been booked in their last two trips to Anfield.
The Brazilian has made an instant impact at Anfield since joining in January from Inter Milan, with Brendan Rodgers claiming he would pay to watch the Samba star play and that ” he gets him off his seat with his class on the ball”.
Coutinho is the sort of player that Liverpool were missing at the start of last season and could be the missing piece of Rodgers’ jigsaw. To find a player with composure on the ball, technical ability, speed and awareness is rare but Coutinho possesses the lot.
Liverpool have struggled to score goals in their last two home games with Stoke and have missed a player like Coutinho to create clear cut chances, so if the Brazilian is on form then Liverpool should do well.
The Brazilian created 20 chances and assisted 5 goals in just 932 minutes of Premier League football last season. This is a chance every 47 minutes and an assist every 186 minutes, which is impressive to say the least.
Coutinho also created a clear cut chance every 104 minutes, which was more often than any other player in the Premier League last season.
The former Inter Milan player also scored 3 Premier League goals last season, at a rate of a goal every 311 minutes and has notched 3 times already during pre-season.
If Coutinho can replicate these statistics next season when he has had a lot more game time then Liverpool will have one hell of a player next season.
Stoke are expected to have a lot of defending to do tomorrow, especially if the game is anything like their past trips to Anfield, with Liverpool having 33 shots to Stoke’s 9 in the last two Premier League games.
Ryan Shawcross has been Stoke’s most consistent centre back over the past couple of seasons and he will need to be on top form to stop the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge.
Shawcross made a tackle every 59 minutes last season, entered into a ground duel every 132 minutes and an aerial duel every 21.35.
He won 59% of his ground 50-50s, 62% of his aerial 50-50s and 71.43% of his tackles, which is pretty impressive for a centre back.
He also made 53 interceptions and failed to make a defensive error last season. The Stoke man started in all but one Premier League games last season and Stoke only conceded 1.14 goals per game when he was in the side, keeping 12 clean sheets.
The defenders presence and understanding of the game is also second to none and is a body on the line type defender that will give 100% in every game.
However, with Liverpool wanting to get their season off to the best possible start he will have to be at his very best to try and help Stoke earn their third clean sheet in as many games at Anfield.
Prediction – Liverpool 2-0 Stoke
Although Liverpool have failed to score in their last two games with Stoke, I believe that if Coutinho is on form Stoke won’t be able to deal with him and Mark Hughes will be on the losing side in his first game in charge.
Pinnacle Sports are offering odds of 1.41 for a Liverpool victory, 9.5 for a Stoke win and 4.77 for a draw. You can also back under 2.5 goals at 2.05.
You can also check out Pinnacle’s brilliant odds for this game and all of this weekends Premier League fixtures here.