Liverpool FC: Predicting the Line-Up for the Visit to Stoke
Coming off the back of a hugely impressive performance against Bolton, Liverpool would have been chomping at the bit for the next league game, as they sought to go from strength to strength as Kenny Dalglish continues his Anfield Revolution.
Unfortunately for Dalglish and his men, their momentum was interrupted by the first international break of the new season. Liverpool sent many players out to represent their national teams and will be thankful that the majority of them returned with clean bills of health. Only Charlie Adam came back with an injury, but he has now recovered and should be fit to take his place in the Liverpool midfield.
Along with the good news that Adam has been passed fit to play, Glen Johnson also returned to full training over the international break, and has also been named in the squad for the trip to the Britannia Stadium.
In other injury news, both Martin Kelly and Steven Gerrard have returned to training, and although this weekends game has come too soon for them, they are both expected to be fit to face Tottenham Hotspur on September 18th.
I think the Liverpool team should pick itself this weekend based on their last performance, but Kenny can be hard to read at times. Here's my best guess at what Kenny will do tomorrow, as well as my prediction of the outcome of the game.
Goalkeeper: Pepe Reina
Kenny probably doesn't bother naming a goalkeeper when he picks his team. Pepe just knows he's starting.
RightBack: Glen Johnson
He's been declared fit and Martin Kelly is injured, so I think Johnson will make his first appearance of the season. Other options here are John Flanagan and Martin Skrtel, but one of Stoke's biggest threats will be left winger Matthew Etherington, and Johnson's pace will be key to keeping him quiet.
LeftBack: Jose Enrique
This one is surely a no-brainer. Enrique's been in fantastic form so far this season and will almost certainly start. Don't expect too many rampaging runs down the wing though, he's likely to be weighed down by having Jermaine Pennant in his pocket for the afternoon.
Central Defender: Jamie Carragher
"We all dream of a team of Carragher's." There might not be a team of them, but there will almost certainly be one of them on the pitch tomorrow. Jamie Carragher has started the season in good form, with the exception of his late slip up against Bolton, and will likely lead to team onto the field in the absence of Steven Gerrard.
Central Defender: Daniel Agger
Daniel Agger is fit, so Daniel Agger must start. It's a simple as that in my opinion. Liverpool's best defender, and he will need to be on top form in this one as Kenwyne Jones poses a formidable challenge for the Great Dane.
Right Central Midfield: Jordan Henderson
Should come into this game full of confidence after a fantastic performance, and his first goal in a Liverpool jersey, in the win over Bolton. With Gerrard still a week or so away, I can't see Henderson not starting.
Defensive Central Midfield: Lucas Leiva
There are a lot of players in the Liverpool squad who SHOULD start every game, but right now Lucas Leiva is one of only four players, along with Reina, Agger and Suarez, who MUST start every game.
Lucas provides the platform for Adam and Henderson to attack from. He's the only defensive central midfielder in the squad who's good enough to fill the role on a regular basis and, until someone else comes in, Lucas must start every game, including this one.
Left Central Midfield: Charlie Adam
Was considered a doubt for this game after picking up a knock while on international duty, but he has been passed fit to play.
I expect him to start as his passing and play-making abilities are key to Liverpool's expansive, quick paced and fluid style.
Right Wing: Dirk Kuyt
The energetic Dutchman has thus far proven himself to be the best partner upfront for Luis Suarez, and they combined very well against Bolton, as they have in almost every game in which they've been paired together. There is a chance this position could go to new signing Craig Bellamy, but I think Kuyt deserves to start.
Centre Forward: Luis Suarez
Liverpool's best player, and the man who has been involved in everything good that Liverpool have done thus far this season.
El Pistelero's ability, movement, quick-thinking and unpredictability will cause Stoke huge problems. Surely the first name on the team sheet.
Left Wing: Stewart Downing
I really think this one is another no-brainer. I can't see how Downing wouldn't start in this game, given the form he's been in for club and country this season.
I think Liverpool will use the same formation they used against Bolton, which was a fluid, interchangeable one, which moved from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 and back again through different phases of the game.
In a 4-3-3 I think we'll see something like this:
Obviously the switch to 4-5-1 is a simple one, with Kuyt and Downing pushing back towards the midfielder, leaving Suarez upfront on his own. In a 4-4-2, Henderson will shift right, Downing will drop out onto the left flank and Lucas and Adam will take the central midfield roles, with Kuyt joining Suarez upfront.
I think Liverpool should win this game, although it won't be easy. Stoke are a very disciplined side who play a physical brand of football. On their home ground they are a match for anyone, but with Liverpool coming into form, and Luis Suarez playing as well as any player in the world right now, I think the Reds will return home with all three points.
I'm predicting a 3-1 victory for Liverpool. Goals from Suarez(2) and a late one off the bench by Craig Bellamy, with Peter Crouch grabbing a goal on his debut for the hosts.
Let's have your thoughts, comments and predictions below.
Thanks for reading.