Stoke Players Liverpool Should Fear in Premier League Opener
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Liverpool entertain Stoke City at Anfield on Saturday lunchtime in what is the very first Premier League game to be played of the new season, and there are a handful of visiting players the Reds will need to keep a close eye out for if they wish to make a winning start to the 2013/14 campaign.
New Potters head coach Mark Hughes has been a busy man in the summer transfer window following his appointment to take over from previous manager Tony Pulis at the end of last season, signing the likes of front man Juan Agudelo, centre-back Marc Muniesa and left-back Erik Pieters.
However, it is the more experienced campaigners in the Stoke squad that the home side must watch out for at Anfield on Saturday, including the following players ….
Goalkeeper: Asmir Begovic
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On his day, one of the very best No. 1’s currently plying their trade in the Premier League, and a goalkeeper who never really ever seems to have a bad day either.
A fine shot-stopper, strong in the air, as well as being an authoritative presence behind his back four, Liverpool will know already that it won’t be easy to get past the experienced Bosnia and Herzegovina international at Anfield on Saturday.
And with the 26-year-old having already kept clean sheets on each of his previous two Premier League visits to Liverpool, Rodgers and Co will be praying that it is a case of third time lucky when faced with the Stoke keeper this weekend.
Centre Back: Robert Huth
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The giant defender is sure to be a busy man at Anfield on Saturday, even in the absence of Uruguay international Luis Suarez through suspension, as well as the possible exclusion too of Daniel Sturridge with injury.
However, whatever formation the Reds set themselves up in against the Potters, and whichever personnel head coach Rodgers opts to go with, one thing is for sure, Huth is going to need to play out of his skin if the visitors are to leave Merseyside unbeaten.
But the German is one of the top flight’s more accomplished and savvy central defenders, and the 28-year-old is sure to be relishing this test in the knowledge that this may just be a good time to be facing Liverpool.
And do not forget about Huth’s threat in the opposition penalty box either, with his 6'3" presence at set plays always a major worry to any opponent, and especially one containing a new keeper and centre-back in their lineup.
Central Midfield: Charlie Adam
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The skilful Scotland international will be making just his second return to Anfield following his £4 million move to the Britannia stadium last August, and you know what normally happens when a former player comes back to an old club…
However, apart from the age-old worry about an ex-player returning to haunt you, there also sound footballing reasons too for being concerned about Adam’s presence in midfield this weekend.
The 27-year-old is an expert set-piece taker, even if he failed to properly demonstrate that particular skill during his brief one-year stay at Liverpool, while he can also be at times a gifted and dangerous ball-playing central midfield player who can hurt the opposition if given too much time on the ball.
And the Reds will be hoping that Adam is not too intent on proving his many doubters on Merseyside wrong come lunchtime this Saturday.
Centre Forward: Jonathan Walters
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The Merseyside-born striker just loves to play against Liverpool, and what is more, Walters also enjoys scoring against the club he supported as a boy too.
The 29-year-old scored twice in Stoke’s 3-1 home win over the Reds on Boxing Day last year, while Walters also netted the winner in another Potters home victory over the Merseysiders the season before.
And while the Republic of Ireland international may never have found the back of the net at Anfield yet, you can bet your bottom dollar that the forward will be trying his utmost to change that particular stat against Liverpool this weekend.
Oh, and Waters is also an ever-alert marksman that the home defence will need to be watching right around the clock if they want to start the new campaign with a clean sheet on Saturday afternoon.
Centre Forward: Peter Crouch
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Again, similar to with Adam’s return to Anfield this weekend, the lanky England international will also be wanting to remind the home faithful of just what they have been missing since previous manager Rafa Benitez decided to sell the striker to Portsmouth five years ago.
Crouch, who headed home an equaliser for Stoke in an FA Cup quarter-final on the ground in March 2012, will be relishing the chance to go up against new Reds centre-back Kolo Toure on Saturday, while another recent arrival at the club, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, will also be wary of the big man’s presence at set pieces.
And while the home fans will be sure to give the 32-year-old a warm reception, there is no doubt the Kop will be just a little apprehensive in the knowledge that Crouch has the capabilities to make it an uncomfortable day at the office for this newly assembled Liverpool defence.