Four months ago Liverpool’s disappointing Premier League campaign was punctuated by a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Stoke City. Fast-forward to Sunday and the promise of a brand new season, and the Reds will seek redemption against Stoke at Britannia Stadium in Stoke-on-Trent.
Mark Hughes’ side ripped Liverpool for five goals in the opening 45 minutes in front of their supporters, and handed Reds legendary midfielder Steven Gerrard a humiliating loss in his final Premier League match.
But Reds’ manager Brendan Rodgers, entering his fourth season at Merseyside, sees the match as an opportunity rather than a chance for vengeance.
“When the fixture came out, I felt we couldn’t have had a better one to be honest. I think lots of people have looked at it wondering whether we would have been better going back later but for me it was the perfect fixture and I was happy when it came out,” Rodgers told reporters Friday.
“The reaction [to the 6-1 loss] over the course of the summer has been terrific and it gives us real motivation to start the season well.”
Rodgers also hopes his seven summer signings can prove fruitful right away, especially with Daniel Sturridge, Joe Flanagan, and Joe Allen all sidelined for the opener. Supporters are eagerly anticipating the debuts of £32.5 million forward and former Aston Villa star Christian Benteke, £29 million-man Roberto Firmino, and former Manchester City midfielder and new vice-captain James Milner, each expected to spruce up last season’s inconsistent attack.
Liverpool’s backline also received some significant upgrades with former Southampton defender Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez projected to play against the Potters.
Coming off a ninth-place finish last term, Hughes and Stoke were just as busy on the transfer market this summer. The Potters added keeper Shay Given from Aston Villa after shipping top netminder Asmir Begovic to Chelsea for £8 million, and welcome new forward Joselu and center-back Philipp Wollscheid, along with former Reds defender Glen Johnson.
Hughes expressed confidence in his squad and noted how he warned them of Liverpool’s expected tone and energy, with a similar blowout victory seemingly not in the cards.
“It was certainly a blot on their copybook and something they will want to address. I've heard their players saying that it's something they don't want to happen again – but we'll have something to say about it as well,” Hughes said.
“It's the beginning of the new season and expectation and hopes are really high for everybody, and no less so than a club of the stature of Liverpool. I don't think too many of us feel that what happened in that game will be repeated.”
Start Time: 11 a.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Live Online: NBC Live Extra
Prediction: Liverpool over Stoke City, 2-0