Liverpool v Stoke City
Barclays Premier League
19th Aug 2009
Kick Off : 20:00
Ground : Anfield
Sundays display at White Hart Lane is still fresh in everyone minds with the same disillusionment and frustration felt among supporters, a match as BBC’s Phil McNulty described where we “delivered a lame display which lacked attacking invention and genuine quality”. The Guardian’s David Hytner described the attacking display by the Reds perfectly…. “Rarely can Torres have had such a disappointing 90 minutes. The three players in support of him, including Gerrard, offered little more; Ryan Babel was particularly peripheral and one of the damning indictments on Liverpool was that Gomes barely had a save to make.”
However, Sundays disappointing opening day defeat at White Hart Lane gave me an opportunity to pause and reflect on Pepe Reina and why our number 25 is well on his way to becoming one of Liverpool’s finest goalkeepers ever. His consistency over the years puts him a class above the rest of the goalkeepers in the Premier League.
The Madrid-born keeper, who joined Liverpool in July 2005 from Villarreal for £6million has already set a number of club records tumbling. Pepe is currently one of the best goalkeepers in the world, when he first arrived he was faced with the prospect of taking over Jerzy Dudeks position between the posts which wasn’t an easy task as Dudek had just become the hero of Istanbul.
Our sweeper keeper became an instant success in Merseyside. Pepe started his first season at Liverpool setting four new records earning himself the Barclays Golden Glove. During that 2005/06 season, Pepe conceded an average of only 0.575 goals per League game or 19 goals in 33 games. He set four new club records by keeping 11 consecutive clean sheets in a row, eight consecutive clean sheets in the Premier League and also kept 30 clean sheets in his first 50 Liverpool appearances surpassing Jerzy Dudek and Ray Clemence’s records.
The 2006/07 season saw him retain the Golden Glove award again with another impressive 19 clean sheets in 35 games.
2007/08 saw him complete a treble of Golden Glove awards. He featured in every league game for Liverpool that season which produced 19 clean sheets. In February 2008, our 3-0 win at Sunderland saw him complete his 50th clean sheet in the League in only his 92nd game, a record that again surpassed Ray Clemence’s previous club record.
Pepe finished the 2008/09 season with 20 clean sheets, equalling his best-ever tally since joining the club in 2005, although Edwin van der Sar would snatch the Golden Glove. During our 5-0 hammering of Aston Villa, Pepe, kept a 100th clean sheet for the Reds on his 197th appearance, again breaking Ray Clemence’s club record for a century of shut-outs by three games.
Pepe’s all round distribution is one of his great qualities which has proven invaluable to our attacking threat, he’s always in complete control of his area and communicates brilliantly with the defence while his uncanny knack of saving penalties gives him the complete goalkeeper traits.. His position and willingness to move up away from his line has given Liverpool the licence to defend higher up the pitch, while his concentration last year was immense with fans unable to count more than one Reina error just last season.
Since hes joined Liverpool he’s made the crucial saves when we’ve needed him the most and at just 26, Pepe looks on course to becoming one of the greatest Liverpools goalkeepers ever…..
Turning our attention back to Liverpools season opener at Anfield….
Stoke City travel to Merseyside on Wednesday night with high expectations after their opening win against Burnley last Saturday…. Over the years in the League, Liverpool have played Stoke 54 times at Anfield, of these Liverpool won 41 times, drew on 10 occasions and have only lost 3 times against Stoke on Merseyside.
Stoke have began their second Premier League campaign looking to build on a creditable 12th spot last season. Last season Stoke surprised the Premier League with a late run of six league wins from eleven which catapulted them into an impressive 12th place finish in the League.
Last season, Liverpool were thrown off their stride by the Potters when they failed to break them down during two goalless League encounters. At Anfield last season, Liverpool had 26 goal attempts of which 10 were on target compared to Stokes 2 goal attempts…. For all our attacking endeavour and creativity, Benitez’s men failed to penetrate a obdurate and well-drilled Stoke defence intent on frustrating. I’d expect Stoke to come with the same gameplan, apart from the long throws, defend and defend until Liverpool give the ball away and then try to catch us on the break. Last season, Liverpool started and finished strongly against Stoke, but in between they gave Stoke too much encouragement to play to their strengths.
Tony Pulis has so far been unable to add the creative midfield quality he was seeking with Sunderland midfielder Dean Whitehead his only major signing for £3m, a fee that could rise to £5 million.
Liverpools Team News
Sundays defeat at White Hart Lane has left the Reds ‘battered and bruised’. Jamie Carragher required stitches after a clash of heads with Martin Skrtel, which eventually forced Skrtel off with a damaged jaw. According to Skrtel’s agent, the Slovakian defender is out for two weeks and he should be wearing a special mask upon his return….. However, according to Benitez on Tuesday, Skrtel was training Tuesday morning and a late decision will be made on whether to include Skrtel in the squad.
Also, reports coming from Melwood indicate Daniel Agger is likely to be unavailable again for Wednesday with his back injury showing no signs of clearing up.
Liverpool also have young Daniel Ayala who made a very impressive League debut last Sunday, he looked comfortable and put in a steady display up against Peter Crouch, proving he will not be overawed when called upon for the first team.
With Skrtel reportedly unlikely to make the starting 11, Who do you think will partner Jamie Carragher in central defence? let us know what you think the back four will be on Wednesday night in the comment section below!!
The midfield will see both Albert Riera and Yossi Benayoun both pushing for returns to the starting line-up. Benayoun was left out of the starting line up last Sunday after missing training last week with a rib injury. Im expecting a similar midfield line up to Sundays with Lucas and Mascherano keeping their position in central midfield with Kuyt on the right, however, i’d like to see Benayoun replace Ryan Babel on the left for this game, Benayoun would provide much needed pace, skill and trickery against Andy Wilkinson. Upfront will be the familiar Gerrard – Torres partnership.
Stokes Team Prediction
I’m expecting Stoke to line up similar to their starting 11 last Saturday, in goal will be the experienced Thomas Sorensen, Danny Higginbotham is likely to start at left back with Andy Wilkinson expected to get the nod over Andy Griffin and Ryan Shotton to start at right back. The solid defensive partnership of Abdoulaye Faye and Ryan Shawcross will continue, an interesting face many people forget is, Stoke conceded fewer goals ‘at home’ last season, where they only conceded an impressive 15 goals…. The midfield of Lawrence, Delap, Whitehead, Etherington is expected while Ricardo Fuller will probably start up front with James Beattie.
Player to watch : Stoke have a number of key players to watch including Senegalese international Abdoulaye Faye who formed a formidable partnership with Ryan Shawcross in the center of the defence last season. However, Ryan Shawcross proved to be very solid in defence and dangerous at set-pieces last season. Just last Saturday afternoon, Burnley‘s failure to deal with Stokes early aerial bombardment proved costly on their top-flight return, the opening goal was scored by Shawcross when he rose unmarked at the far post to meet Liam Lawrence’s free kick and brilliantly directed his header beyond Brian Jensen and into the bottom left hand corner of the net. Carragher and Skrtle will have to be on their game to deal with Stokes arial threat….
Key head to head : Skrtel v Beattie. Beattie made an impressive start to his time at Tony Pulis’ Stoke at the end of last season with 7 goals in 16 matches to cement Stoke Citys 11th place finish last season. Beattie will be hoping to score double figures in his first full season with the Potters, Srktel will be keeping a close eye on the English forward. Beattie’s ability in the air makes him perfect for a Stoke side with Rory Delap’s long throws, Beattie will be relishing the opportunity to pit himself against our Liverpool defence again.
Last Five Meetings :
10/01/09 Stoke City 0 – 0 Liverpool (Premier League)
20/09/08 Liverpool 0 – 0 Stoke City (Premier League)
29/11/00 Stoke City 0 – 8 Liverpool (League Cup)
25/10/94 Liverpool 2 – 1 Stoke City (League Cup)
09/10/91 Stoke City 2 – 3 Liverpool (League Cup)
Liverpool 2 – 0 Stoke. Big things are expected from Liverpool this season and these will be the type of games where three points is a must. Liverpool remained unbeaten in the league at Anfield last season, but their well-documented seven draws at Anfield is an area which needs a vast improvement on. Liverpool will have learnt from previous encounters with Stoke last season but for me this should be a comfortable enough victory for Liverpool if they can grab an early goal…
An Interesting fact I heard today – Liverpool have never lost their first two Premier League fixtures and last went pointless after the opening two games in 1964…..!!
Redkopi – Issue 2