“Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.” Liverpool battled that gorilla all night long at a blustery, cold, hell-on- earth atmosphere that is the Britannia stadium, an hour from the friendly confines of Liverpool.

Brendan Rodger’s Liverpool entered the match with 9 points in their previous 5 games and the return of the second half of their deadly strike combo, Daniel Sturridge, looked to give them a boost.

Stoke only managed 4 points out of their last 5 but it did feature 4 matches against teams in the top half of the table. Mark Hughes had Stoke playing mid table football at the Christmas break marked by a signature win against Chelsea.

Liverpool played a 4-3-3 that saw Gerrard take the holding role over Lucas but continued the front three of Coutinho, Suárez and Sterling. The game started off with a bounce that wouldn’t have gone Liverpool’s way two weeks ago at the Emirates or Stamford Bridge. Aly Cissokho’s hopeful strike ricocheted off Ryan Shawcross and past a helpless Jack Butland to put the Reds up 1-0. Stoke then took to the wings to bring an onslaught of crosses and corners Liverpool’s way but they held their ground, helped by Martin Skrtel’s shirt pulling. The Red’s managed to settle Stoke when a bit fortune fell their way again. Srktel’s clearance from inside his own 18 yard box found the head of Marc Wilson who was in between two minds and headed the ball part way to Butland, Suárez read the ball perfectly and slipped by Shawcross and it hit first time into the back of the net, 2-0 to Liverpool in the 32nd minute.

Stoke came flying back when Marko Arnautovic found a little space and hit a great ball to Peter Crouch who headed into the side netting to make it 2-1 and re-invigorate the Britannia. Just 6 minutes later it was another ex Red who did the damage; Charlie Adam banged a thunderbolt from 22 yards out through Skrtel’s legs and past a sprawled Mignolet to level the match and set the table for what looked to be a spectacular second half, and what a 45 it was.

No changes at half for either squad and both teams picked up right where they left off. Raheem Sterling caught a ball off his hand in the 50th minute and was off to the races, only to be fouled in the box by Wilson. Stoke furious at both the missed handball and “soft” penalty as Hughes would put it. Gerrard converted and the Reds were up again. Sturridge returned in the 65th minute and it only took another 6 to reunite with his partner Suárez on a no look pass with a tidy finish from the Uruguayan to put Liverpool up two for the second time in the match. 14 minutes later Stoke were at it again, another spell of possession for The Potters led to a Jonathan Walters squeaker that found its way through Touré and Mignolet to once again light a fire in the match. It was not to be for Stoke though, Suárez found Sturridge in the box only to be denied by Butland, but a great a bit of skill led to the nail in the coffin by Daniel and a terrific way to top off a phenomenal match.

The match can be split into two segments, pre Sturridge and post Sturridge. To talk about pre Sturridge offensively would be a bit useless I would think because I don’t believe we will see another starting XI without him (knock on wood). One thing to gather from Liverpool’s play before Daniel came on was that Gerrard was occupying the holding role where Lucas usually sits and acts as a 3rd centre half. This change in positioning by Rodgers left Liverpool a bit shallow in their own end and meant they spent 28.29% of their time down the middle of their own end as opposed to 20.96% against Hull.

Stoke ran at Cissokho quite successfully all day, crossing in a whopping 34 balls from the right. Defensively it felt like the Reds weren’t able to adapt to Stokes pressure on the wings, and Aly and Glen were too exposed. Going forward I think Lucas needs to remain right above the back 4 in a sweeper role, to relieve some of the pressure off the centre back pairing.

Both Henderson and Lucas had relatively quite games, as it felt both team were just by passing the midfield on their way to goal. Coutinho on the left wing once again felt futile as he continued to drift in to the middle and missed two quality opportunities. His heat map as compared to Sterlings is quite telling of our lack of a real left winger:I can’t imagine we’ll be seeing too much more of the 4-3-3 so it’s hard to speak on how to improve going forward, but we know with the return of Sturridge there has to be someone dropped.

It was one of those matches where the stats go out the window and it feels like the last team to score might win. Stoke took advantage of Liverpool’s weak areas and the best strike partnership was reunited in a shootout at the Britannia. Sakho’s return should bring a calming influence over the squad going into a crucial set of League games, featuring perhaps the most important Derby in 20 years.

Stoke City 3 – 5 Liverpool – Post Match Recap and Analysis by Michael Blundell

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About The Author

Michael Blundell

was born in Vancouver, Canada to a Canadian mother and American Father. His father played University Soccer in New York and raised Michael a Liverpool supporter. Though only being a University student himself, he has experienced both the highs and lows at the club. Naivety may be a blessing and curse in this case, but it is well for the heart to be naive and the mind not to be.

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