In their past two matches, Liverpool have shown both how far they remain from being a consistently elite side as well as a glimpse of their impressive potential under Brendan Rodgers.
Against Aston Villa, missed chances early on led to something of collapse as the visitors to Anfield stunned Liverpool with a 3-1 win. Things were very different when Fulham came to town a week later as an early goal arrived and Liverpool produced one of their best performances this season to record a resounding 4-0 victory.
While Stewart Downing gained many of the headlines with a first league goal and first league assist, captain Steven Gerrard was hugely influential in the midfield. The veteran has spoken of his desire for Liverpool to make the most of the hectic festive period.
"The table is so compact that if you can string two or three wins together you can make real progress up the table,” he said, according to Liverpool’s official website. “Vice versa, if we don't build on the result against Fulham we could slip back down into mid-table.
"The games come thick and fast at this time of year and we need to get some momentum over the festive period. Villa was a missed opportunity but we've got ourselves back on track against Fulham.
"Stoke, QPR and then Sunderland—on paper these are fixtures we should be getting points from. But it won't just happen for us. We have to put the hard work in and earn the right."
Certainly, Stoke look set to be extremely tricky opponents at the Britannia Stadium on Wednesday. Tony Pulis’ side are unbeaten at home this season, where they have only conceded three goals. Indeed, Stoke currently have the best defensive record in the Premiere League.
The Potters are also the league’s draw specialists and have recorded three-straight stalemates and 10 overall.
Pulis’ selection issues concern two former Liverpool strikers. Michael Owen could be back in contention after a hamstring injury, while Peter Crouch is pushing for a recall having been left out in favor of Kenwyne Jones in recent weeks. Another former Liverpool player, Charlie Adam, may again not feature after being granted compassionate leave following the death of his father.
Both Joe Allen and Raheem Sterling started on the bench for Liverpool and will hope to be restored to the starting lineup, although Allen may be rested as he struggles with a pelvic problem.
Stoke City (probable)
D: Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Wilkinson
M: Walters, Whitehead, N’Zonzi, Whelan, Etherington
D: Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique
Sterling, Gerrard, Downing
Prediction: There promises to be quite the contrast on Wednesday as Stoke’s direct, physical approach faces off with the short-passing style of Liverpool.
The visitors should be in confident mood following their win last time out. The presence of Lucas Leiva at the base of the midfield has been crucial in giving those around him, especially Gerrard, license to be more expressive.
But Stoke’s record speaks volumes and they will especially welcome the opportunity to put one over on one of the Premier League’s big names. When the two sides met back in October, the match ended in a goalless draw and, while we may at least see a couple of goals this time around, another stalemate could be on the cards.
Stoke City 1-1 Liverpool
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick-off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a delayed online stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.