Stoke away. Probably my least favourite fixture of the entire season.
Let’s be clear; Tony may now be working at Crystal Pulis, but the stats suggest little has changed at the Britannia. Stoke City have won the most aerial duels, committed the most fouls, and have the worst disciplinary record in the Premier League this season. The Reds are in for a battle, and no mistake.
Mark Hughes has also so far maintained his predecessor’s love of low scoring and low interest home games. In 105 Premier League games at home, Stoke have scored 134 and conceded 103; no wonder the natives can get a little restless at times. Whilst Stoke have only conceded seven at home this season, they’ve scored fewer in total (eleven) than Liverpool have in open-play alone (twelve) on the road in 2013/14.
It’s easy to see why they don’t concede too many at home too. Although their shots against figure is nothing special, 55% (the second highest proportion in the division) of these shots are from outside the box, meaning that they average just 5.6 opposition shots in the box per match. For the record, Liverpool allow 7.6 away from home this season, so this is one area where the hosts may have the edge.
On loan Oussama Assaidi will probably be a miss for Stoke, as he is their second top scorer, and third most creative player in the league this season. Even with the on-loan winger in their side, Stoke still only average three shots on target per home game; the joint lowest in England, and only one of the ninety-seven other teams in Europe’s top five leagues average fewer (Elche, in La Liga).
Thinking about Stoke’s aerial prowess, Skrtel (with 3.4 aerial duel wins per game) and Sakho (2.7 per game) have been Liverpool’s best players in the air so far this season, so hopefully the latter recovers in time to play. If not, presumably Toure will be drafted in, and as he and Skrtel hardly covered themselves in glory when paired together away at Hull, I would have serious concerns about the Reds’ ability to deal with the Potters’ aerial assault.
In order to create chances on Sunday, Liverpool may need to modify their approach slightly. The Reds lead the way in the Premier League for through balls per game, with six (and only Barcelona, with seven, can top that in the big leagues), but the WhoScored stats show that Stoke don’t (on average) allow any against them at home, so Coutinho and co will likely have to find another method of penetrating the home side’s deep defensive line.
I’m terrible at predictions, but it’s hard to see anything other than a low scoring match here. Stoke’s lack of shots on target, allied to Mignolet being ranked second in the league for save percentage, and Liverpool having the league’s third most potent attack on the road tells me that a point is the least that the ‘Pool should be returning home with. Considering Liverpool’s atrocious league record at Stoke (with the current run at three straight defeats) I wouldn’t be disappointed with that at all.
Recent posts you might like:
Liverpool’s Chance Champion – A look at which Reds have created the most chances in 2013/14, and who has found the best areas most frequently.
The Time Is Now – Liverpool have started 2013/14 well, but their next five games (in mid January 2014) are key if the Reds are to finish in the top four. This explains exactly why that is.
The 39 Steps Part Two: Progress! – Victory over Hull City means Liverpool are seven games ahead of the last three years, and this article explains why.
2012 and 2013: Chalk and Cheese – Liverpool’s performance in the last two years could hardly be more different.
How Many League Goals Can Suárez Score in 2013/14? – This features a forecast table, which is updated after every match.
LFC Pass Combination Heatmaps 2013/14 – A look at which players have been most involved pass-wise, and who they’ve linked up with in every league match this season.