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Liverpool vs Stoke preview; Klopp face an ‘unnecessary distraction’ in faltering Potters

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Liverpool take on Stoke City at Anfield in the Premier League as Jurgen Klopp’s charges return to action following Tuesday’s 5-2 Champions League win over Roma.

As for travelling Stoke, Paul Lambert’s men are fighting for their top-flight survival and will be aiming to make a late charge to put pressure on 17th-placed Swansea City.

Liverpool

Anfield will likely still be rocking after Tuesday’s demolition of Roma in the Champions League, but there might just be a slight air of frustration as the Italians bagged two late away goals in the 5-2 win in the first leg of the semi-finals.

Once again, Mohamed Salah was untouchable for a period of 20 minutes or so and the Egyptian bagged two more goals as the Reds took a commanding lead in the tie. Klopp’s charges seemingly lost intent once the 25-year-old was removed, allowing Roma to steal some late momentum heading to Rome next week.

Anfield played host to one of Europe’s most spectacular nights on the pitch for a while, but the game was also plagued by troubling news. England midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain picked up a knee ligament injury that will now keep him out of the World Cup in the summer, leaving the 24-year-old to miss out on his third major tournament at international level.

More worryingly, prior to kickoff a 53-year-old man was left in a critical condition in hospital after he was assaulted outside of a pub close to Anfield. Two men from Rome, aged 20 and 29, have since been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

The incident has led both clubs and the relevant authorities to seek wider conversations before Liverpool travel to Italy for the second leg next week. With a three-goal advantage Liverpool are well placed, although anxiety still hangs in the air regarding the safety of travelling fans to the Stadio Olimpico.

On the field, Klopp will be slightly concerned having conceded those two goals. A similar incident also occurred last time out in the Premier League, when Liverpool threw away a two-goal lead to be held 2-2 by West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns.

That draw has left third-placed Liverpool three points clear of Tottenham Hotspur in fourth, who also have a game in hand over the Reds. Klopp’s pursuit for second spot took a hit last weekend, although Liverpool arguably have a top-four place already wrapped up. The club’s league situation will most likely see Klopp rest a number of faces before the return leg against Roma.

Liverpool are unbeaten at home in the league this term, winning 12 and drawing seven at Anfield. The last team to beat Liverpool at home were Crystal Palace in April last year. The Reds are unbeaten in 11 Premier League games going into the clash with Stoke.

Recent form: LWWDWD
Recent form (all competitions): WDWWDW

Stoke City
Stoke’s relegation plight has now reached a head and the Potters are on the verge of dropping down into the Championship after a troublesome season.

Paul Lambert’s first game in charge appeared to have provided a watershed moment when Stoke beat Huddersfield Town 2-0, but since that win the club has not been able to manage another, drawing six and losing five since that victory.

The Potters were well beaten by Arsenal and Spurs a few weeks ago, but Lambert will be frustrated at how they let a late lead slip at West Ham United, before going ahead against Burnley only to come away with a single point against the Clarets.

Those draws have let 17th-placed Swansea off the hook and Stoke now find themselves four points adrift of safety with games against Liverpool, Palace and the Swans. Carlos Carvalhal’s men also have a game in hand of Lambert’s charges.

Coming into the fixture with Liverpool, Stoke have the worst away record in the top flight having collected just nine points from 17 matches, inclusive of only a single victory on the road. Central to the club’s struggles has been their defence. Stoke conceded the first goal in an unrivalled 21 league games and have kept just five clean sheets all term.

For all of the right noises made by Lambert at the business end of the season, the coach’s nine league points from 12 matches since he arrived measure the same as what Mark Hughes achieved during his final 12 games in charge of the Potters.

One thing that Lambert can cling to, though, is that the coach has never lost an away match at Anfield as a manager. During five visits in all competitions, the 48-year-old has won three and drawn two.

The Potters might not be expected to get much from a visit to Anfield given Liverpool’s home record, but should Klopp rest his players, Stoke might just have a chance of taking something away from Merseyside ahead of a clutch of more potentially-winnable fixtures in the coming weeks.

Recent form: LLLLDD

Team News

Klopp is expected to rotate at Anfield, leaving Nathaniel Clyne, Albert Moreno, Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan all in with a chance of starting in defence on Saturday.

Georginio Wijnaldum should feature in midfield in place of Oxlade-Chamberlain, while Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke should start alongside Salah in attack.

Maxim Choupo-Moting and Kostas Stafylidis remain out for the Potters, who will also continue to exclude Saido Berahino and Jese from their matchday squad.

Lambert will likely keep his faith in Mame Biram Diouf alongside Peter Crouch in attack. The Potters could be able to recall Glen Johnson from injury, although the club will make a late call on his fitness.

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Karius; Clyne, Gomez, Klavan, Moreno; Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Ings, Solanke, Salah

Stoke City possible starting lineup:
Butland; Zouma, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Shaqiri, Allen, Ndiaye, Bauer; Diouf, Crouch

Head To Head
Liverpool have not lost in 54 home top-flight fixtures against the Potters, winning 43 and drawing 11 games. The home unbeaten run is the longest by any one side against another team in top-flight records.

The Reds have won their last four league meetings in recent years, which have followed on from a bizarre 14-13 penalties win over the Potters in the third round of the 2014-15 League Cup.

Stoke last beat Liverpool in the Premier League during the 2014-15 season, when the Potters produced a 6-1 win over the Reds in Steven Gerrard’s last game for the club.

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