LIVERPOOL FC entertain Stoke City on Saturday as Anfield hosts the opening game of the 2013/2014 Premier League season with Brendan Rodgers in search of the perfect start to an imperative season for the club.
All previous Premier League fixtures against Stoke have come with an expectancy for aggression and a battle from the first whistle.
However, with former manager Tony Pulis having left in the summer, a change of style is expected of Stoke City with new manager Mark Hughes the sort of boss who likes to see his teams play football on the deck.
He has used Stoke’s five pre-season friendlies in order to begin the process of implementing a brand new system and style at a club that has been so used to seeing their team play a certain way. Despite signs of a fresh change, the old habits are still evident. During five friendly matches, Stoke have conceded just two goals but have only managed to score four times – a statistic that suggests the Stoke we have all become accustomed to is the one that Liverpool will potentially come up against on Saturday.
Hughes has also only secured the signatures of two new signings this summer – Marc Muniesa (Barcelona) and Erik Pieters (PSV) – which suggests that the new style of play the manager will want his team to adjust to will take longer than anticipated, certainly not in time for Saturday’s Premier League opener.
For me, if Liverpool click like we know they can, the Reds should win comfortably. However, Liverpool fans more than anyone else know that what should happen and what does happen are two completely different issues.
In the absence of Luis Suarez, so often the downfall of a tight defence similar to what the team will expect of Stoke, the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge will have to step up to the plate in order to get the goals Liverpool will need to secure the win.
It is not expected that Rodgers will bring in any new players in time to feature against Stoke so the team, barring no late injuries, should be the one that most Liverpool fans will have managed to work out through the clubs recent pre-season fixtures.
Although not definite, a starting eleven of Simon Mignolet, Glen Johnson, Kolo Toure, Daniel Agger, Jose Enrique, Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen, Lucas, Iago Aspas, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho will be what the majority of Reds supporters will expect to see come 11.45am on Saturday morning.
It is essential that Liverpool, having been given a relatively painless start to the fixture list, begin the season with a bang and that would mean a comfortable victory over a Stoke side expected to flirt with the relegation zone this season.