After a 2-2 draw against Ludogorets on Wednesday, Liverpool are now winless in their last five games. While the offense has been better as of late, as a result of the good play of Rickie Lambert, defensive issues continue to undermine the team. Brendan Rodgers will be hoping for better play from his team this weekend after a lackluster performance in the 3-1 loss against Crystal Palace last weekend.
Since he cannot use a 4-3-1-2 formation with the constant injuries to Daniel Sturridge, Rodgers has shifted from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 from one game to another. A 4-2-3-1 should be the better choice for this weekend in order to be able to match the physical play of the Stoke City midfield and defense.
Simon Mignolet committed a huge mistake against Ludogorets to give the Bulgarian club the lead. However, because there is no other player capable of challenging him, Mignolet will continue to start most of the matches. It will likely be a goal for Rodgers to bring in another keeper during the winter transfer window to provide some competition for the Belgian.
Javier Manquillo had a relatively solid performance in the last match and he should make another start this weekend. He will be going up against former Liverpool player Victor Moses who has three assists this season. The Spaniard will have to pay attention to where Moses is at all times in order to limit the his influence on the game.
A duo of Dejan Lovren and Kolo Toure provides a good mix of physical play and smart reading of the game, which will be essential against a Stoke frontline of Peter Crouch and Bojan. Crouch still possesses one of the best headers in the game and that will cause some issues for Liverpool.
As Ludogorets and multiple other teams have shown, Liverpool really struggles to defend corners. Both center backs will have to always be aware of where Crouch is but they should also make sure not to get caught too far up the field when Stoke launches a counter-attack.
Alberto Moreno should return to the starting lineup after being replaced by Glen Johnson the past two games. While Johnson was not terrible, Moreno is still the best option Rodgers has for the left back slot.
Against Stoke, the Spaniard will likely have space to take advantage of, since the right side of the team is much weaker than the left.
Both Jordan Henderson and Emre Can are good passers and should be able to control the game. Steven Gerrard will probably be rested after playing midweek, but if Rodgers wants more defense in front of the back line, either one of Lucas or Joe Allen will be able to provide that.
An attacking midfield trio of Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana is arguably Liverpool’s most dangerous set of players.
All three are quick, great passers and can finish when given a chance. Both Lallana and Coutinho are rested after sitting against Ludogorets, while Sterling was subbed off during the second half.
In order to be at their best, they will have to be willing to match the physicality of the Stoke defenders. They will also have to try and keep the keep the ball for most of the game so that the Potters won’t be able to start any counter-attacks.
Lambert has made a strong case to be the first-choice striker for Rodgers for the rest of the season. He has scored two goals in two games and hopefully he will be able to continue that fun of form against an average Stoke City defense.
Rodgers may decide to sit him since he has started the past two games but no other striker has been as good as Lambert has. If the England international does not play, either Fabio Borini or Mario Balotelli will start.
Via – Lineup Builder