Stoke come to Liverpool with long shots and familiar faces

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The Reds are back to winning ways and want to keep the good feeling going after a last-minute derby win at Goodison Park—and after two away victories on the spin it’s back to Anfield for the visit of Stoke City. Here’s everything you need to know about Mark Hughes’ men.

Stoke City

Premier League form: L – W – W – L – D – D

League position: 11th

Last win: 2-0 vs Burnley, Dec 3

Away: Won two, drawn three, lost three

 

Approach

STOKE-ON-TRENT, ENGLAND - Monday, April 18, 2016: Stoke City's manager Mark Hughes during the FA Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur at the Britannia Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Stoke are changeable. They still have the overall approach of being a side who want to build fast through the midfield zones, but set plays and direct passes seem to give them more offensive threat than anything else.

Hughes sets his team up in a standard 4-2-3-1 and the wide players are a force on the counter-attack, but they lack something in consistency, particularly up front.

Like a few of the mid-table teams, Stoke have a number of players who are interchangeable in their attacking roles without overly affecting the quality of the team, either for better or worse.

 

Danger spots

The non-stop running and aggression through Stoke’s spine still shines brightly. Glenn Whelan, Joe Allen and Jon Walters are all likely starters and none will let Liverpool settle on the ball for a minute, and if Charlie Adam gets the nod over Gianelli Imbula there’s another familiar face who ups his game against his old side.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 5, 2011: Liverpool's Charlie Adam in action against Swansea City's Joe Allen during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In addition, there are a fair few players in the Potters’ side who possess cannons for feet—close them down quickly and stop the long shot opportunities must be the message for the deepest players, centre-backs and midfielders alike.

Stoke rank fourth in the league for shots outside the box and in Adam, Imbula, Walters or even Bojan and Shaqiri, cutting in from the flanks, they can shoot at will.

[via WhoScored]

 

LFC can exploit…

A muddled defence, primarily. Not so long ago, Hughes was down to three fit defenders and had to shake up his tactical plan; they have a back four again now but the chopping and changing and absence of first-choice goalkeeper means Stoke have been porous at the back all season long.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 10, 2016: Liverpool's Alberto Moreno in action against Stoke City's Xherdan Shaqiri during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

They’ve only lost one of their last five away games, but while Pieters is a formidable full-back, the Shawcross-Martins Indi partnership isn’t quite at watertight level just yet.

 

Key men

Former Red Joe Allen is proving incredibly important for the Potters, not just with his early-season goals but in winning the ball back and quickly starting counters from anywhere on the pitch.

He’s in the top 10 tacklers of the Premier League this season and his link play with the striker—running off flick-ons, playing one-twos and getting inside the box—is definitely something the home defence will need to watch.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 17, 2016: Liverpool's Joe Allen in action against Bournemouth during the FA Premier League match at Dean Court. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For Liverpool, they should be able to score at home against a defence which is far from watertight, so a third clean sheet in a row has to be the priority even if this match is a scrappy battle, or one which the Reds dominate but don’t show a clinical edge in. Simon Mignolet, keep doing your thing.

 

Team news

Marko Arnautovic is suspended after being sent-off two games ago. Goalkeeper Jack Butland is out injured for the long term and defenders Marc Muniesa, Phil Bardsley and Geoff Cameron have also been sidelined.

Possible XI: Lee Grant, Glen Johnson, Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi, Erik Pieters, Glenn Whelan, Charlie Adam, Bojan, Joe Allen, Xherdan Shaqiri, Jonathan Walters.

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