If you’ve ever lost your faith in football – the greed, the commercialism, the lack of soul – then Monday night’s Merseyside derby harked back to the good old days of passion, purity and animalistic tribal warfare. This is what the beautiful game should be every time those 22 players cross the whitewash.
Of course, it helps when you beat your bitter local rivals – and with an injury time winner to boot – and so you can forgive us for feeling particularly chipper ahead of the contest with Stoke on December 27.
Let’s be fair: Everton dominated the first half-hour of the derby, but in truth they just didn’t possess the quality to turn possession and dominance into goals. As the first half drew to a close, the Reds had wrestled the superiority away from the Toffees, and at that point there appeared to be only one winner.
And so it proved….although Sadio Mane left it rather late to secure the three points and the bragging rights! Never mind, the job was done and Liverpool closed the gap on Chelsea at the summit of the Premier League table to six points.
The Reds have an extra day of festive frivolity to enjoy given that most of their rivals are in action on Boxing Day, and hopefully that will result in a vibrant performance against a Stoke side that has never won a league match at Anfield in 49 attempts!
Liverpool Team News
The good news for Jurgen Klopp is that his side have an extra day of preparation ahead of this fixture, and that has given his players eight days to get the emotions of the Everton win out of their system.
The downside is that after Stoke on Tuesday we welcome Manchester City to Anfield on the Saturday, and it is essential that those involved do not take their eye off the ball ahead of a more pressing assignment at the weekend.
Will Klopp be tempted to hold a few players back for the City game? It is certainly possible, and certainly we would not expect Joel Matip to be rushed back if he is not quite ready, so Ragnar Klavan is likely to deputise. In terms of resting players, Emre Can could come in for Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge, who Klopp was effusive in his praise for after coming on as a late substitute against Everton, may get a run out ahead of Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino.
The great news coming out of the camp this week is that Philipp Coutinho has returned to full training following his ankle injury, and he may just be a surprise inclusion for the City match.
Stoke City Form
Mark Hughes’ men will be absolutely kicking themselves that they weren’t able to convert a 2-0 lead against ten man Leicester on Saturday, and while it is something of a cliché that result will ultimately feel like a defeat.
The Foxes stalemate compounds a turn of fortunes that, after a period of renaissance, sees the Potteries side claim just two wins in their last six starts. The 1-3 defeat at Arsenal on December 10 is a handy marker for what happens when Stoke travel to quality opposition who like to play on the front foot.
And of course, no discussion of Stoke’s ‘form’ can be complete without a look at their record at Anfield: 49 matches, 0 wins, 10 draws, 39 defeats. Occasionally we can read too much into the head-to-head records as time is fluid and things change, but that record – stretching back more than a century – is rather illuminating.
Liverpool vs Stoke City Betting Tips
When the teams were announced prior to the Merseyside derby we must confess we were rather worried about the absence of the excellent Joel Matip at the heart of the defence. However, we needn’t have been – Ragnar Klavan proved an excellent understudy.
Even so, Stoke have only failed to score in 4/17 outings this term, so there is a danger that they will find the net; especially with Marko Arnautovic returning after suspension.
They have improved defensively too of late, with five clean sheets in ten matches. But even so, they shipped two against Leicester, three at Arsenal and – going back in the season – four against Manchester City, Tottenham and Crystal Palace. The point is that when they play sides that attack in numbers and with pace, they are vulnerable.
There is some nice betting value around regarding this hypothesis, with Liverpool to Win & Both Teams to Score a nice starter at 15/8. This is a better double option than the ‘overs’ market, with most of the key bookmakers setting the bar at Liverpool Win & Over 3.5 goals, rather than the standard 2.5.
For those who like a spoonful of risk with their reward, any match where ‘Team A to Win & BTTS’ appears to be a distinct reality offers plenty of opportunities in the Correct Score market. We can Dutch 2-1 and 3-1 to Liverpool at 10/1 and 11/1 respectively, and in this case we would only lose approximately 10% of our winnings in the cover stake.
We’re happy to ignore the Anytime Goalscorer market here until the starting line-ups have been announced, but do keep an eye on Daniel Sturridge (21/20) as he looked very lively in his short cameo against Everton.