Liverpool's match against Stoke away at the Britannia on Sunday won't be easy as the Reds have lost five defenders - Glen Johnson (centre), Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sakho, Jose Enrique and Jon Flanagan - through injury. - AFP
AS LIVERPOOL are linked with a number of players during the winter transfer window, the team have been bolstered by the return of a couple of key players.
Steven Gerrard has come back from his hamstring injury and Daniel Sturridge is now in line for an earlier-than-expected return to first team play – in time for Liverpool to continue to prove why they are a top four team in the league.
But just as the team welcome back two of their more important players, the Reds are facing an injury crisis in defence.
Lost to injury are Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sakho and Jose Enrique, with Glen Johnson on the treatment table for a calf injury. Jon Flanagan, who has deputised admirably in the absence of Enrique, is also out with a hamstring injury.
The Christmas period wasn’t too kind to the Reds, who lost to Manchester City and Chelsea away. Since then, Liverpool have won three games on the trot and now must know that beating the smaller teams is a must if they are to maintain the momentum needed for a return to the Champions League next season.
The chances of that happening is really in the hands of Brendan Rodgers’ men, although the injury crisis at the back won’t help.
Dealing with Stoke City away tomorrow will be difficult, especially with the absence of key defenders. But it’s winning such games that will be the real difference for Liverpool if they are to realise their ambition of becoming a top four team.
After beating Manchester United at home, they now will host the top teams of the Premiership at Anfield in the remainder of the season. The only trip they need to make is to Old Trafford, having beaten David Moyes’ team at Anfield earlier in the season.
The constant flux of players in and out of the team won’t help Rodgers and his smallish squad of first team players will have to prove it has the goods to beat a Stoke team who have been better-than-average at home this season.
Mark Hughes has his team playing tough at the Britannia Stadium, having lost just once at home this season. They will host Liverpool with the belief that they can secure all three points. For Liverpool, they have to show that they have the desire and ability to win such matches.
It is games against the likes of Stoke that will define Liverpool’s fate this season.
Jagdev Singh Sidhu thinks it will be a fight but Liverpool will return to Anfield with three points from the Britannia Stadium.