Liverpool vs. Stoke City: What to Expect from Reds in Season Opener

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Liverpool vs. Stoke City: What to Expect from Reds in Season Opener
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Stoke will look to hold back a potent Liverpool attack in the Premier League's opening match.

Liverpool Football Club are coming off of a stellar preseason. 

The Reds have blazed their way to seven wins in eight games over the past month, winning by a combined tally of 20-2.

However, this weekend begins what promises to be a challenging campaign for the Reds, as Liverpool hosts the always physical Stoke City in the Premier League opener.

Here are a few things to expect as Liverpool enters the 2013-14 campaign with their eyes fixed upon Champions League qualification.

 

Lets Get Physical

Anyone who has seen Stoke play knows exactly what to expect when The Potters step onto the pitch.

Stoke, who Arsene Wenger once called a "rugby team", are famous for exemplifying the physical style of play that has come to define the Premier League. 

Stoke are famous for their utilization of physicality to upset the rhythm of the more technically gifted teams. 

Unfortunately for Liverpool, a few members of their starting XI enter the opening fixture battered and bruised, which could be a game changer against the punishing Stoke.

Martin Skrtel's place in this weekend's side appears to be in danger due to a knee injury, according to Sky Sports.

Daniel Agger has also been sidelined with a knee injury, having missed last week's contest against Celtic in Dublin. 

Finally, Daniel Sturridge is still working his way to full fitness following an ankle injury while on international duty over the summer. However, according to a report from mirror.co.uk, Sturridge appears to be ready to go following a two goal performance in a friendly victory over Newcastle.

Look for Stoke to maintain its always present style of physicality, while Liverpool will have to rely on Kolo Toure to step in for either Agger or Skrtel if one is made unavailable due to injury.

 

Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images
Coutinho has become a Kop favorite during his time in Liverpool

He's Magic, You Know?

Liverpool's secret weapon isn't much of a secret anymore.

Will Coutinho be able to replicate last season's successes?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Brazilian starlet Phillippe Coutinho took the Premier League by storm last year, registering seven assists and three goals in twelve games in red.

Coutinho has become an important cog in the Liverpool attack, as his passing and creativity open up the game for Liverpool's forwards to swoop for goals.

Coutinho enters this season as one of the focal points of Liverpool's attack, as he will be expected to replicate last season's form.

Look for Coutinho to have a few plays that make supporters swoon, as the 21-year-old bags at least one assist that causes the Kop to erupt.

 

Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Iago Aspas has been impressive in his first preseason as a Red.

"O damn'd Iago! O inhuman dog!"

In Shakespeare's legendary play Othello, the character Iago is a typical villain. He is cruel, manipulative, and conniving, all while possessing no clear motive for his vindictive actions.

While Liverpool's version of Iago is certainly no saint (as evidenced by his headbutting of Deportivo's Carlos Marchena in March), the Reds hope Iago Aspas has what it takes to become more of a Kop hero than villain.

Aspas, who joined from Celta Vigo in June, is a goalscorer, as evidenced by his preseason tally of four.

Aspas' ability to put the ball in the net will be even more crucial for the first few weeks of the season, as Luis Suarez's suspension leaves a gaping void in Liverpool's attack.

Aspas will be counted on to fill in for the controversial Uruguayan, and should earn a spot in the starting XI this weekend.

Look for Aspas to have a major impact on the match as he looks to make an impression on the Liverpool faithful.

 

Potential Starting XI

Simon Mignolet

 Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Kolo Toure, Jose Enrique

Lucas Leiva

Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen

Phillippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, Iago Aspas 

 

Prediction:

Look for Liverpool to utilize ball movement to frustrate Stoke. While Stoke is always dangerous from set piece situations, expect Liverpool to make a statement in front of the Anfield faithful, as goals from Aspas, Sturridge and Gerrard lead the way as the Reds earn three points in their opening fixture.

 

How do you think Liverpool will fare this weekend? Comment below with your thoughts or tweet @R_Tolmich with your predictions!

 

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