Liverpool vs. Stoke: 6 Key Battles in FA Cup Quarterfinal

Thomas Atzenhoffer@socceratzCorrespondent IIMarch 15, 2012

Liverpool vs. Stoke: 6 Key Battles in FA Cup Quarterfinal

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    Liverpool and Stoke City have already met three times this campaign. The first was a frustrating loss at the Britannia, as the only difference was a Jonathan Walters spot kick to give the Potters a 1-0 home victory.

    The Reds returned to the Britannia Stadium yet again in the third round of the Carling Cup and Stoke again went out ahead 1-0 thanks to Kenwyne Jones.

    However, Luis Suarez refused to let his side capitulate twice in two appearances in the same venue as the Uruguayan scored two brilliant goals to send the eventual Carling Cup winners through.

    Stoke would have the last laugh when they came to Anfield in January, as they stifled the Reds and held them to a 0-0 draw. In fact, it has taken until the Reds Merseyside Derby victory this week for them to even have an outfield player score at home.

    Anfield once again will be the setting for the fourth match between the two clubs this season.

    The Reds hold the advantage, as they just secured a major ego boost from the Merseyside Derby while Stoke fell to Chelsea 0-1 after having won two straight in the league.

    It is sure to be cracker of a match, with excitement from start to finish, as the FA Cup brings out the best in English football.

Martin Skrtel vs. Peter Crouch

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    Young Sebastian Coates featured back in January hoping his height would help deal with Stoke's set piece attack, but I believe Kenny Dalglish may stick with experience at this stage of the cup.

    That means Jamie Carragher is likely to retain his place in the first team after a solid display against Everton midweek.

    The job of dealing with former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch is set to land on the shoulders or Martin Skrtel.

    Skrtel has been in fine form all season and is arguably the Reds player of the year having been as influential on offense from corners as he has been in defense.

    Crouch is sure to have a tough fight on his hands, as both Skrtel and his likely partner Carragher know him well.

Robert Huth vs. Andy Carroll

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    Another big-man battle is expected to play out between Andy Carroll and Robert Huth.

    Carroll was in fine form against Everton and should have scored at least once.

    Liverpool's big money man will be hard pressed to get easy opportunities against a physical center-half like Huth and has to be on target if he gets an opening.

Martin Kelly vs. Marc Wilson and Jermaine Pennant

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    Martin Kelly rampaged through Everton's left flank of Victor Anichebe and Leighton Baines midweek and could do so again against Stoke.

    Former Liverpool man Jermaine Pennant has never been known for his defending, and left-back Marc Wilson is not one of the best in the EPL.

    Kelly has been sensational as of late, and Glen Johnson could get another night off to continue healing from his most recent injury.

Steven Gerrard vs. Wilson Palacios

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    Steven Gerrard was magical for the Reds with his midweek hat trick over Everton.

    What the nearly 32-year-old continues to prove is why he is a game changer, and after his latest showing there is no doubt that his goal has never been more than to lead his side to victory every time he steps on the pitch.

    The Liverpool captain is likely to face a midfield battle with Stoke's Wilson Palacios. The 27-year-old Honduran was once believed to be one of the brightest prospects in the EPL during his time with Wigan Athletic, but now Tottenham have been so unimpressed they are loaning him out.

    When he is on form, Palacios is an excellent defensive midfielder that can play toe-to-toe with anyone.

    Gerrard has to keep control in the middle to push his team forward because if Stoke is allowed to just beat around all day controlling the midfield and winning set piece after set piece it gives them the full advantage of their best offensive strength.

Luis Suarez vs. Ryan Shawcross

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    Luis Suarez tore Stoke City apart the last time he faced them at the Britannia Stadium during the Carling Cup.

    The Uruguayan was suspended the last time the two came together back in January, and it was obvious the loss to their attack without him.

    Ryan Shawcross is the most gifted of the Stoke defenders, and he will be tasked stamping out the feisty young South American who was lively against Everton in midweek earning two assists.

    Suarez was the man of the match last time he faced Stoke away, and he has a knack for scoring against the Potters since netting his first Liverpool goal against them in his debut match during February of 2011.

Matthew Etherington vs. Jose Enrique

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    While the long throws of Rory Delap and Ryan Shotton are mentioned most of the time in connection with Stoke City's offense, the work down the right flank by Matthew Etherington has been fantastic this season.

    The 30-year-old winger has produced three goals and six assists in his 22 league appearances for the club over the campaign and last scored against Norwich in the clubs 1-0 victory. In the previous match win against Swansea City, he contributed an assist.

    Jose Enrique has also been in fine form, and since joining the Reds, his ability to both provide great support down the flank as well as display his strength and ability in defense has been a huge part of Liverpool's success on both sides of the ball.

    After two years of indecision on the left due to injury, poor form and inexperience for the Reds, it has been a nice change of pace to have a solid first team player in the Spaniard.

    If Etherington gets the nod after two weeks off, he is certain to be well rested and ready to go, and Enrique will have to be sure not to allow the veteran any room to try and create for Jonathan Walters and Peter Crouch.

Conclusion

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    Liverpool are riding a bigger high than Stoke City, and their thrilling Merseyside Derby should give them a major boost at home, as they finally have proven to themselves that they can win at Anfield.

    However, Tony Pulis took his squad to Wembley last season, and after what has become a disappointing league campaign with his club sitting in the bottom half, he will come fully prepared to try and take away the Reds hope of a second piece of silverware this year.

    Please check out these articles as well:

    Stevie G Proves He's the Man in Liverpool

    English FA Cup Elite 8: Round 6 Previews and Predictions

    Thanks for reading and be sure to check out more on Bleacher Report and at the links below. You can follow me on Twitter @thedailyatz and Facebook, or visit my website.

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