Liverpool will host Stoke City in the opening game of the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League season on Saturday, 17 August. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will hope for a better start to his second season in charge. Last campaign, the Reds picked up only two points in their first five games. The goal for the season is Champions League football and to achieve a good start is imperative.
Stoke City are under new management this season, with Mark Hughes taking over from Tony Pulis. Under Pulis, Stoke played a style of football they would soon trademark. Their game relied on physicality and playing long lofted balls to their big centre forwards. Although not the prettiest football, it produced results. Under Hughes, however, the team will attempt to add culture to their abrasive style of play. In the first game of the season it will be interesting to see how much the playing style has evolved under the new manager.
Liverpool have had an extremely successful pre-season, winning six out of seven games. The Reds scored 17 goals and conceded only two. Despite the opposition not being of the highest quality, Rodgers will be encouraged by the results. In their last friendly fixture, Liverpool lost 1-0 to Celtic. With the Scottish team being the only one of comparable quality in Liverpool's whole pre-season schedule, the defeat will be slightly worrying. Like in many games last season, Rodgers' team controlled much of the game and had better chances only to be undone by a breakaway goal. If Liverpool are to be successful this season, those types of performances need to be eradicated.
Stoke have also enjoyed a successful pre-season. In the three games played in North America, Hughes' team won twice and lost once. Their remaining fixtures were one win and a draw, making their overall record: five played, three won, one drawn and one lost.
Liverpool will be without Luis Suarez who is suspended for the next six games after biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic towards the end of last season. The Uruguyan striker has been the subject of ongoing, at times irritating, transfer speculation this summer. The saga seems to be nearing an end with Liverpool making it clear he is not leaving. Centre backs Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger are recovering from injuries but should be available for the game. Striker Daniel Sturridge is also likely to be involved after recovering from an ankle injury.
The only injury concern for Stoke is Brek Shea, who will miss the game due to a knee injury. New summer signings Erik Pieters and Marc Muniesa are expected to make their Premier League debuts.
Where to Watch
Kick-off is at 5:15 pm IST(Saturday, August 17) and live coverage is available on Star Cricket HD.