Liverpool welcome Stoke City to Anfield on Saturday lunchtime, looking for a big win in their quest to finish in the top four.
Liverpool vs. Stoke City
Saturday, April 28, 2018 – 12.30pm (BST)
Referee: Andre Marriner
After another breathless midweek of Champions League action, focus is required this weekend.
The Reds were magical in their 5-2 win over Roma in the semi-final first leg, but any momentum that was lost by the Giallorossi‘s two late goals must not affect them.
Stoke head to Merseyside on the verge of relegation to the Championship, but they will put up a fight and test what could be a weakened Liverpool side’s resolve.
All of a sudden, things have become slightly nervy in the top-four battle, with Chelsea finding form and narrowing the gap to eight points with a game in hand.
Jurgen Klopp‘s team cannot afford many slip-ups in their remaining three league games, and victory against Stoke is paramount, in what is their easiest remaining fixture.
Klopp has big decisions to make with his personnel, ahead of next Wednesday’s second leg in Rome, but as cliched as it may be, the manager needs to take it one match at a time.
Dropped points against the Potters could spell trouble ahead of a trip to Chelsea next weekend – do a ruthlessly efficient job please, Reds.
Last Meeting: Stoke 0-3 Liverpool
One of the biggest negatives against Roma was the knee injury suffered by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose season looks over.
Sadio Mane is likely to be absent on Saturday with a thigh problem, although Klopp hasn’t confirmed it. The 26-year-old should be fit for Wednesday.
Lee Grant is Stoke’s only absentee, which means Paul Lambert may go with the same starting lineup that drew 1-1 at home to Burnley last Saturday.
Ibrahim Afellay has been told to stay away from the club, having fallen out with his manager.
Last 5 at home to Stoke City (All Competitions)
Won 4-1 – December 2016 – Lallana, Firmino, OG, Sturridge
Won 4-1 – April 2016 – Moreno, Sturridge, Origi x2
Lost 1-0 (won 6-5 on pens) – January 2016 (League Cup semi final, 2nd leg)
Won 1-0 – November 2014 – Johnson
Won 1-0 – August 2013 – Sturridge
Did You Know?
If Salah scores this weekend, he will move one clear of Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Alan Shearer (31) to become the Premier League‘s highest ever goalscorer in a single 38-game season.
He would also edge closer to Ian Rush’s tally of 47 goals in 1983/84 – the most scored in a campaign by a Liverpool player – having notched an unfathomable 43 to date.
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Stoke City – Last five results (all competitions)
Speaking at Melwood on Friday morning, Klopp emphasised the importance of Saturday’s game, and said his starting lineup will be as strong as possible:
“I prefer to wait until the last second, until I have to make the decisions,” Klopp said.
“We have a few little things from the (Roma) game. My idea for the lineup is to win the game. It’s not about resting players.
“We play Tuesday, Saturday and Wednesday, which is OK from a recovery point of view.
“So we could play the same team, if players are available. It will not be a thousand changes, because we don’t have that opportunity. And it’s an important Premier League game.
“We are desperate for points, like Stoke are. From my point of view, this is the game of the season.”
TV & Live Blog Info
The match kicks off at 12:30pm (BST) on Saturday, allowing Klopp and his players the maximum possible time to prepare for Wednesday’s second leg in Roma.
Television coverage gets underway on Sky Sports Main Event at 11:30am.
Chris Williams is running our matchday live blog from 11:45am, with lots of interesting content before the game, and minute-by-minute updates during it.