With his squad decimated by injuries and no money forthcoming for replacements Rafa’s line-up today was always going to look a long way away from one that Reds fans would like to see. Even so, it’s difficult to work out how the 11 names on the field will actually line up.
Pepe Reina is back from his injury in midweek and of course plays in goal, but what the formation will be in front of Pepe remains to be seen.
Ryan Babel was left at home, quite possibly to avoid him picking up an injury that would scupper a move away from the club – Rafa is said to be considering a swap deal involving Babel that would see Kenwyn Jones leave Sunderland for Merseyside. It’s a key sign of how poor a condition the club is in that the only hope of getting cover in the face of a season-long and never-ending injury crisis is to try and sell before buying or to go for swap deals.
Aquilani is on the bench, no doubt struggling after playing the full 120 minutes in midweek when he’s still getting back to full match-fitness. Albert Riera is back in the squad after injury, but is seen as only match-fit enough for the bench today. New signing Maxi Rodriguez is also on the bench but having only properly joined up with the rest of the squad yesterday is not considered ready to start yet either.
The rest of the bench is made up of sub-keeper Cavalieri, young defender Stephen Darby, young midfielder Jay Spearing and young forward Daniel Pacheco. In all Rafa has four players that might be described as “attacking” out of the seven on the bench – but less players considered as such on the field.
Defenders Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Insua, Degen and Aurelio all start. It’s possible that Carragher will play right-back with Degen used on the right wing in a 4-4-2, and although Aurelio does play at left-back for the club he’s also regularly played in central or left midfield.
In midfield are the two defensive midfielders, Javier Mascherano (back from a four-match ban) and Lucas Leiva.
The only two attacking players on the pitch are Dirk Kuyt and David Ngog.
Stoke: 29 Sorensen, 3 Higginbotham, 4 Huth, 17 Shawcross, 25 Faye, 15 Diao, 18 Whitehead, 20 Sanli, 24 Delap, 26 Etherington, 11 Sidibe
Subs: 1 Simonsen, 22 Collins, 28 Wilkinson, 6 Whelan, 7 Lawrence, 14 Pugh, 10 Fuller
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 23 Carragher, 16 Kyrgiakos, 37 Skrtel, 22 Insua, 27 Degen, 20 Mascherano, 21 Lucas, 12 Aurelio, 18 Kuyt, 24 Ngog
Subs: 1 Cavalieri, 32 Darby, 4 Aquilani, 11 Riera, 17 Rodriguez, 26 Spearing, 47 Pacheco
Referee: Lee Mason
Kick-off: 12:45pm GMT