Liverpool vs. Stoke City: Why Sunday's Game Will Be Defining Moment for Reds

Ryan DavenportContributor IOctober 6, 2012

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 18: Steven Gerrard of Liverpool in action during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool at The Hawthorns on August 18, 2012 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

From the outset of the 2012-2013 Premier League season, it seemed inevitable that it would be something of a trying year for Liverpool and their legions of supporters around the world.

That's natural when a storied club like Liverpool finishes eighth and then undergoes a total makeover, highlighted by Brendan Rodgers replacing Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish as the team's manager.

As expected, the Reds stumbled out of the gates. They went without a win through their first five matches until finally defeating Norwich City on the final weekend of September, 5-2.

Despite the results, the club still boasts a collection of impressive pieces, such as longtime star Steven Gerrard, Uruguay international Luis Suarez and promising up-and-comers Jonjo Shelvey and Raheem Sterling.

Their record aside, the Reds have put together some encouraging performances, like the 2-1 defeat at Anfield against Manchester United, which was largely decided by some questionable decisions by the referees.

Outside of the Man United and Norwich City matches, though, the Reds have been consistently inconsistent and have failed to convert on scoring opportunities far too many times. This was a problem the club had hoped to solve by ridding itself of Andy Carroll earlier this year.

Heading into Sunday's match against Stoke City, the club has an opportunity to make a statement, as the Reds take on a team that has lost just once through six matches. In essence, the Stoke City match could serve as a turning point in the Reds' season.

With a loss, Brendan Rodgers' side will fall even farther down the tables and find themselves dangerously close to the relegation zone. More importantly, the team's confidence would be dwindling, and the club would find itself in virtually uncharted territory at the bottom of the tables with three weeks to sulk before their next league match.

Conversely, with a win, the Reds would gain momentum. And assuming they can defeat perennial cellar-dweller Reading in their next league match, they'd head into their October 28th match against Everton feeling much better about their chances against the club that's currently ranked second in the Premier League.

From there, if Gerrard and company could somehow leave Goodison Park with an unexpected victory against their hated rival, they'd be in a much better position than they are today.

But that's still weeks away. Before they even begin to think about the Everton match, Liverpool needs to find a way to emerge victorious at Anfield on Sunday. Otherwise, it'll be an even longer season than previously expected for the millions of Anfield faithful around the world.