Liverpool visit Stoke City on Boxing Day with hopes of winding down 2012 on a good note, albeit in a fixture that's proven to be downright miserable over the past few seasons.
First, Merry Christmas to all those that celebrate! Hope you're able to spend time with those you love and care about, and that everyone remembers the true purpose of the holiday--accruing massive amounts of random stuff you wouldn't otherwise buy and overindulging on food and booze to the point that you're ultimately immobile and useless. So basically any other Tuesday. Rejoice!
I'm going to keep this one brief because of said holiday and family and etc. Also because I despise Stoke City and Tony Pulis with every fiber of my being. There's no redeeming qualities about this fixture--the opposition, their manager, their supporters, all completely loathsome. I wish Liverpool didn't have to play this one, and if God truly existed, they wouldn't. But hey, Merry Christmas, remember?
Shocking news that Michael Owen is out injured, but Pulis will have an otherwise full strength squad to call upon so long as Charlie Adam's back after taking bereavement leave because of his father's death. Hopefully he's back, as it's likely been a difficult time for him and his family, especially with the holiday, and playing football again might be the best thing for him. Peter Crouch
and Jermaine Pennant (Pennant's been on loan at Wolves since October, thanks Richie FOR EMBARRASSING ME ON MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY) rounds out the former Liverpool contingent that could feature, and Asmir Begovic, Jonathan Walters, Ryan Shawcross, and Robert Huth will likely continue their string starting every Premier League match for a squad that's only had two results all season separated by more than one goal.
Johnson Skrtel Agger Enrique
Downing Suarez Sterling
No new absences confirmed for Brendan Rodgers' squad, but the manager has discussed an apparent pelvic injury for midfielder Joe Allen that could keep him out and Oussama Assaidi is likely continuing to manage a knee injury. Saturday to Wednesday is a decent-enough rest for all the other regulars, and nobody seemed too bothered after the win over Fulham.
Normal service at the back unless Rodgers opts to go with three--in which case I'd hope Sebastian Coates joins Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger--and while it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to see the same midfield as we got against Fulham, I'll guess that Jordan Henderson comes in for Jonjo Shelvey. The latter's a walking red-card in this fixture but could have an impact; Henderson's a bit more cerebral and could link play well. Up top, it seems that Stewart Downing's in line for another start, like it or not, and Raheem Sterling should be back in to join Luis Suarez.
Kickoff tomorrow is later on, with the start time set for 7:45PM GMT/2:45PM EST. Viewers in the UK can catch it live on Sky Sports One, while folks in the US can watch it on Fox Soccer Channel. We'll have the overnight open thread and matchday post up as usual, and team sheets will run around an hour or so before kickoff.
Hope you're able to enjoy the holiday if you're celebrating, and that you'll be around tomorrow to join us.