It's hard to fathom that Liverpool haven't won a match since early August at Anfield. But since the defeat of Gomel, that's been the case. 0-for-5. In fact, they've only managed two draws in those, against City and Hearts. Home form was a major issue last season, though having to deal with three of the biggest guns in the league haven't helped. Whatever, there's no time to wait around now. Liverpool have to get the home force going, and it has to start tomorrow against Stoke.
While the result was disappointing against Udinese, the performance as a whole wasn't. But you're tired of reading that. Lord knows I'm tired of writing it. But the performances do keep improving, and as long as that happens, the results will follow. We have to believe that, even if it doesn't have to be true.
But one thing that's going to have to change about those performances in a hurry is the defense. Liverpool haven't kept a clean sheet since Tyncastle in Edinburgh. That's not even close to good enough. It's not even close to bad. It's abhorrent. I leave it to you whether it's a good or bad thing that the blunt object -- say a club or mace or just a big board with a nail in it -- of an attacking force that is Stoke is the next opponent. At least you know what's coming.
The lineup shouldn't be too hard to figure out. Glen Johnson could shift to the left of Skrtel and the happily re-upped Daniel Agger (thank god for that). The only question from there is will it be Andre Wisdom who comes in, or does Johnson stay on the right for Robinson or a finally-fit Enrique? Likely it's the former solution, as Wisdom has put together some performances against WBA and Norwich and Robinson won't be trusted with two games in four days.
We know the midfield will be Allen-Gerrard-Sahin, with Shelvey suspended and Henderson not quite pushing his way through -- though he's hardly been bad in the cup matches he's gotten a run out in.
The only question at forward is whether Suso or Borini will join Suarez and Sterling. Rodgers seems desperate to get Borini to fit in, but it hasn't really worked yet. His running when in the middle is very intelligent and useful, but his touch both there and out wide have been...not what it is needed, shall we say. I'd like to say Suso will start, but with a break coming up that probably means Borini gets to go again for a second time this week.
Stoke are off to a decent start to the league. They've only lost one game in six. Then again, they've only won one as well. The loss was a narrow one to Chelsea in London, the win came last week at home to Swansea.
There are too may old faces to stand. Peter Crouch is their leading scorer, but he hasn't been a huge problem for Liverpool since he left the club. There, I just jinxed it. Charlie Adam has established himself in midfield, though farther up and/or wide on the left. Hopefully he can be enticed to a stupid tackle or pass or 12. But if his set-piece delivery that was so ballyhooed that we never saw returns, it's a problem for everyone. Jermaine Pennant and Michael Owen might get a decent view from the bench.
It's no secret with Stoke, and it hasn't changed because it keeps working. Keep it tight, pack the midfield, lump it toward the box when you get a chance and make havoc. WIth Huth and Shawcross in the middle, you''d like to think that clever movement with quick passes will catch them out and pull them to parts of the pitch they don't want to be. But that's always the plan, and their ably shielded by new American hope Geoff Cameron (we'll do anything for a central defender, even if he plays midfield with his club) and Whelan as well. We don't know how Sahin will respond to being pushed around a bit, which he almost certainly will be here. Sterling can also expect a couple challenged that you won't want to show to kids.
Stoke have been a problem for Liverpool, but that's mostly been at the Britainia. They got a draw at Anfield in the league last year before getting stomped in the FA Cup quarterfinal. It's time to end this silliness and get a run going in the league and at home. The margin for error keeps getting smaller.
This is also your thread for the game.