Stoke vs Liverpool: Three talking points

Liverpool should be fearful favourites

An away goal and a victory ahead of second leg makes the Merseyside club the better bet to reach the League Cup final next month.

The caveat is Stoke's grit and the undoubted quality in their ranks that failed to fire on this occasion. This may not be the case in two weeks' time in the return leg at Anfield.


Klopp's gang remain short of a gunslinger

The headline number hanging over this Liverpool side as they arrived was their 22 goals in 20 league games.

This is the poorest return since the club was founded 124 years ago and while manager Juergen Klopp took charge in early October, he has overseen 11 of these matches, in which 15 strikes is the count.

When Philippe Coutinho limped off in the first half, the lack of confidence Klopp has in his one fit striker was illustrated by him refusing to put on Christian Benteke. Instead, Jordon Ibe entered and it was the youngster who scored.

This vindicated the manager in one sense, yet despite dominating for long periods Liverpool never looked likely to score more.


Stoke's three-pointed star has shone brighter

When on song, Stoke's three star turns of Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic and Bojan Krkic form a kind of Bermuda Triangle that suck in opposition defences via their devilry on and off the ball. Manchester City and United have been the prime scalps this term and Hughes stated that they could again be the side's X-factor.

To have a former Barcelona player in Krkic and two former Inter Milan footballers as the Potters' focal point is a telling sign of the new times at Stoke.

Yet Klopp had instructed his players to get as close as possible to them to stymie the threat and an embarrassing mis-hit shot by Bojan Krkic showed how this upset their collective rhythm.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2016, with the headline 'Stoke vs Liverpool: Three talking points'. Print Edition | Subscribe