The new season begins with a fixture that has ended in a 0-0 draw three times out of the past five seasons, but the bottom line going into this match is that Stoke City have failed to score a single goal against Liverpool since reaching the Premier League.
Expectations are high at Anfield, regardless if Luis Suarez remains or leaves the club by the end of the transfer window. At least, higher than the 7th place they finished in last season. Losing only three matches during the second half of last season is good enough reason to feel confident about their chances in 2013-2014.
Suarez is out for the first six matches of the season in any case, still serving a ban from his infamous bite on the hand of Branislav Ivanovic. This just gives more chances for Daniel Sturridge and Iago Aspas to show their ability up front. The Spaniard seems to be a lock for the first team, while Sturridge, despite health concerns, should be fit for the season opener, hoping to keep on the form that got him many praises last season.
The key man for Liverpool seems to be Philippe Coutinho, who is hoping that his excellent from since January means that he’s on his way to become one of the more prominent Brazilians in Europe today, holding on to the creative title among the Liverpool players, hoping it might even give him a spot in the World Cup with the national side.
For Stoke City, it’s a season of change after Toni Pulis left the team, and the usually criticized Mark Hughes taking over. The summer pickings haven’t been the kind that send shockwaves of enthusiasm through fans with Juan Agudelo, Marc Muniesa and Erik Pieters arriving at the club, in contrast to the departures of “classic Stoke” players leaving the club – Rory Delap, Matthew Upson and Dean Whitehead.
One of the reasons Pulis left was Stoke not being able to shake off the “ugly football” label, and some sort of stagnation in their development last year, falling into relegation battles they found their way out of at the end. Hughes hasn’t found a lot of success over the last few years, but he’s hoping that things go smoother with his new job.
Prediction – While Stoke are hoping to shed their ultra defensive approach in away matches, it doesn’t seem like they have the talent to find the net at Anfield for the first time since making it into the Premier League. Liverpool aren’t a finished work yet and are still missing their best player, but should have enough to begin the season in satisfying fashion.