It’s a very important game for both the teams. Stoke City are currently 8th in the table and Liverpool are just one spot below them with 2 games in hand. Both the teams will have to give it their best if they are still hoping to fight it till the end to make sure there are any chances of European football next season. While Liverpool are still comfortably placed in the Europa League and have a chance to qualify for Europe next season if they win it, Stoke’s only chance at Europe is through the EPL. Both Jurgen Klopp and Mark Hughes have to make sure that they place the most formidable playing 11 against each other and then let the players fight it out for the Clubs.
We expect the players of both the clubs to give their best performances in the match and accordingly we hope some on-field battles to emerge. Let us look at 3 such on-field battles that will be the key in the upcoming match.
Phillipe Coutinho vs Glenn Whelan-
Samba Boy Coutinho has been brilliant for Liverpool this season. He has been a scorer and a provider and sometimes the lone warrior in the team. He has had a string of impressive performances and was absolutely brilliant in the match against Tottenham. He was a creative genius on the ball and linked up brilliantly with the other attackers. He has always been at the end of praises from his teammates and club followers. Glenn Whelan, on the other hand, is the unsung hero for Stoke. And so he has been for quite a few seasons now. The Irishman is the go to captain in the absence of Ryan Shawcross and he has led the team brilliantly. At times, Stoke has shown under his leadership and it is his contribution in the centre of the midfield that makes the life of his teams defenders easy. He has been an absolute delight for Stoke in the central midfield position.
With Coutinho always looking to break away in counters, it will be Whelan’s duty to man mark him and to make sure that the Brazilian sees very less of the ball. Whelan has to stop Coutinho in his link up plays and also has to make sure that the Brazilian is not able to produce those clever passes for his teammates.
Marko Arnautovic vs Mamadou Sakho-
This one is going to be a pleasure to watch. Both are tall, both are known to be strong in their respective positions and both are especially known for drawing opponents players into each other. Arnautovic was brilliant in almost all the games he has played this season. The way he takes on central defenders is just a pleasure to watch. He completely bulldozes defenders and forces them to commit mistakes. In the match against Tottenham, it was him was the one who created all sorts of problems for the opponent defenders and thereby helped his teammates score. Sakho, on the other hand, was brilliant in most matches too. He was a delight to watch in the Europa League clashes against Manchester United, especially in the second league game where it was his individual performance that Liverpool fends most of United’s attack. He was brilliant in his recent performance against Dortmund and was seen coming on to the edge of the box and stopping Dortmund attackers from creating anything.
It will be a typical striker vs defender battle and I just can’t wait to see who will emerge victorious out of this clash. Let’s just hope both the players bring their best performance in this game.
Emre Can vs Ibrahim Afellay-
Emre Can have been one of the most pivotal players in the Liverpool team. His versatility on the field has helped Liverpool a number of times. One moment you’ll see him creative beautiful balls from the centre midfield position and the very next moment you will see him acting as a centre back in the Liverpool Defence. He is one of the best utility players in the Liverpool squad and both club and country coaches rate him high. He is known more for his defensive abilities than his creative ones and it is him who is seen stopping the attacking midfielders of the opponents on a number of occasions. Ibrahim Afellay has been having a very good season for Stoke this year and seems to be one of the reasons why Stoke still hopes for a place in Europe next year. His run-ins on an attack and his abilities on the ball is something worth praising. He has become one of the main players for his country as well.
It will be interesting to watch how Emre Can will stop the Afellay from getting into the Liverpool box. On the contrary, it will be fun to watch how Afellay is able to get the better of Can and produce some dominance in the Liverpool box. Both the players are coming off from impressive performances in their last match and I hope they both will be buzzing at each other in this match.