The Real Holiday: Stoke v. Liverpool

Liverpool go to hell on Boxing Day

For the English footy fan, Boxing Day is probably better than Christmas Day. The family annoyances are gone, you don't have to be surrounded by children if your family has a lot of them, and it's a football feast. While it's terribly unfair to the players and has probably set back the English national team a lot, the feast of football the Premier League tosses at you over the Holiday period has become a staple of the time for most of us, I imagine.

And Liverpool cap off Boxing day tomorrow. You'll have had the chance to have consumed four hours of 22 men in shorts before the Reds ever take the field at the Britainnia. Just awesome.

Sadly, they cap it off in a place they haven't won in four attempts in the league, and the only victory they managed was in last year's Carling Cup. But that was the last visit, so perhaps that's knocked some of the mystique out of the ground.

All of you could write the description of Stoke. Dour, ugly, neanderthal football full of long-balls, long throws, playing for set pieces, and physical play to rival the battle along the lines in an NFL game. Trying to find Peter Crouch's head all the time, or set pieces trying to locate Shawcross or Huth, with the brief interval of hoping to release Walters or Etherington on the counter. You've seen it, it's burned into your memory.

For Liverpool, the only changes you might see are Raheem Sterling in for Suso up front, and possibly Lucas sitting for Allen -- though Allen's been carrying something so that's probably more likely at the weekend. If so, Henderson could come in for Shelvey in the most advanced role in midfield. With Gerrard and Downing having been so good against Fulham either deep in midfield or on the right of the forward line, you have to expect them to stay there. Gerrard could use a rest as well, so it wouldn't be a total shock if Henderson actually comes in for him with Shelvey staying put, or Allen as well. Slight chance Enrique can't get two matches in succession after returning from a slight injury, but I doubt it.

The last time these teams tangled it was the same as it ever was. Liverpool dominated possession and chances but couldn't put any away and thus let the Potters get away with a point they almost certainly didn't deserve. It's going to be even harder at their place, where they're even more able to make things stodgy and hard. There'll be a lot of fouls, a lot of men behind the ball, and just generally ugly. But the uglier it gets the worse it is for Liverpool .Playing at pace will be a premium, because the more you dally and delay the more Stoke can set up to make it the match they want. They'll be flying into tackles at the start, so Liverpool have to move the ball around and past them quickly. If they can, there should be some openings.

As always, this is your thread. The match is on live on FSC here in the Colonies. Round out Christmas with three points, won't you boys?

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