Premier League preview: Stoke v Liverpool
By Football News
Liverpool made it look easy in a 4-0 win over Fulham on Saturday, but their trip to face Stoke City is a different prospect altogether.
Brendan Rodgers has divided opinions during his first season in charge of Liverpool, winning plaudits from some and making enemies of others as he attempts to implement the possession-based approach which brought him acclaim at Swansea City.
After swapping the comforts of the Liberty Stadium for the spotlight of the top job at Anfield, Rodgers has remained true to his principals despite several shaky performances, most recently a chastening 3-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa on December 15.
Fortunately for the ambitious Northern Irishman, Liverpool were afforded an immediate chance to banish those memories with another home match and seized it with both hands, dispatching Fulham by four goals without reply on Saturday.
Martin Skrtel, captain Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing and Luis Suarez were all on the scoresheet as Rodgers' players proved what they are capable of when everything comes together.
The win saw them climb to eighth on the table, five points outside the European qualification places, with continental competition next season still a realistic hope, provided they perform well in the second half of the 2012/13 campaign.
That objective however may be easier said than done, and a reality check looms on Boxing Day with a trip to face Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.
Now in their fifth consecutive Premier League season, Stoke have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with under manager Tony Pulis.
They earned a point in a 0-0 draw away to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, doing well to blunt Spurs' potent attack in front of their own fans at White Hart Lane.
And with Liverpool undeniably vulnerable away from home, Pulis and his powerful players will fancy their chances of bullying some of Rodgers' more inexperienced talents.
Fullback Martin Kelly (knee) and forward Fabio Borini (foot) are out for the visitors, while Stoke will be missing defender Marc Wilson (ankle) and experienced utility player Rory Delap (hernia).
Midfielder Charlie Adam, who joined Stoke from Liverpool in August, missed the match against Spurs after the death of his father and may remain on compassionate leave.