Capital One Cup: Side With Stoke For First Leg Advantage At Home To LiverpoolPublished January 4, 2016
It’s Capital One Cup semi-final 1st leg week and the first tie on Tuesday night sees Stoke City playing host to Liverpool. This is the furthest that Stoke have progressed in the League Cup since they won the trophy back in 1972 when they beat Chelsea 2-1 in the final, but they will fancy their chances of beating Liverpool over two legs and booking another trip to Wembley Stadium.
The form book certainly favours Mark Hughes’ team. Stoke has raised their game on several occasions at the Britannia Stadium in the last couple of months, beating Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United in the Premier League and all without conceding a goal.
Rather like Liverpool, the Potters have been inconsistent this season and have lost at home to West Bromwich Albion, Watford and Crystal Palace in the Premier League. Indeed, Liverpool themselves won the opening game of the campaign at the Britannia Stadium courtesy of a late Philippe Coutinho goal.
Even so, Stoke City’s defeat at the Hawthorns on Saturday was only their third loss in their last 13-matches. By contrast Liverpool has won only two of their last seven matches in all competitions and both of those victories were by a solitary goal to nil. Their last truly impressive performance came in the quarter-final of this competition, when they recovered from going a goal down early on to annihilate Southampton 6-1 at St Mary’s.
Taking into account Liverpool’s recent troubles on their travels, with defeats at Newcastle United, Watford and West Ham United, it’s difficult to justify their position as favourites going into this match. Jurgen Klopp also seems less than taken with the work ethic of some members of his squad judging by his recent comments.
On the injury front, James Milner could be available for Liverpool, but the game is likely to come just too soon for Daniel Sturridge’s latest comeback and the likes of Jordan Henderson, Martin Skrtel, Divock Origi and Jon Flanagan all remain sidelined.
There is more than enough quality in the Stoke ranks to trouble anyone these days and a big midweek game at the Britannia should ensure an excellent atmosphere in which the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay, Bojan Krkic and Marko Arnautovic can thrive. It’s tempting to opt for the security of taking Stoke in the Draw No Bet market, but there are enough reasons to back Stoke for the win here.