Sunday, 11th Jan. 1:30 am. Live at StarSports| Anfield | Premier League
Stoke City 0-0 Liverpool
Anfield | Premier League
Stoke City earned a deserved point against Liverpool as the Premier League leaders produced a lifeless performance at the Britannia Stadium.
Rory Delap came closest to breaking the deadlock for Stoke early on when he rattled the bar from close range – and Liverpool could have had no complaints if Tony Pulis’ side had claimed all three points.
But captain Steven Gerrard almost snatched the win Liverpool’s display barely merited when he angled a free-kick against the bar with six minutes left, then struck a post in stoppage time.
Liverpool never exerted any serious dominance over Stoke, failing to increase the pressure on Manchester United and Chelsea ahead of their meeting at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Midfielder Matthew Etherington is expected to make his Stoke debut against Liverpool after arriving from West Ham this week.
Manager Tony Pulis has promised to shake up his side for the Barclays Premier League match at the Britannia Stadium following the FA Cup defeat by League One side Hartlepool.
Striker Richard Cresswell is available again after suspension while Dave Kitson could get another run-out following knee problems as Ricardo Fuller remains banned.
Pulis is determined to keep smiling even though his side have tumbled down the table after taking three points from a possible 18.
With Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham their next opponents the immediate future looks bleak.
Pulis, though, believes it is vital to look on the bright side if they are to avoid a quick return to the Coca-Cola Championship.
He said: “We know you have good runs and bad runs. The big thing you learn in the Premiership is you have to take it on the chin.
“You have learn how to lose without getting too down and too despondent. You have to box that up, put it to one side and make sure everyone who counts stays positive.
“It is difficult, however, especially when you have got used to winning in the Championship.”
Fernando Torres is expected to return to Barclays Premier League action for the first time since November.
Full-back Alvaro Arbeloa is unlikely to be involved as he recovers from a hamstring problem, but Javier Mascherano has overcome an ankle knock sustained at Preston in the FA Cup last weekend.
Fabio Aurelio is expected to return at left-back, with teenager Emiliano Insua on international duty with Argentina Under-20s.
Midfielder Xabi Alonso has been ruled out with a foot injury, while veteran defender Sami Hyypia will make the 700th appearance of his club career if he figures at the Britannia Stadium.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has launched an astonishing attack on his Manchester United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Spaniard claimed United boss Ferguson is “the only manager who will not be punished” for outspoken attacks on referees.
Benitez claimed: “We had a meeting in Manchester with managers and the Football Association about the respect campaign.
“And I was very clear, forget the campaign because Mr Ferguson was killing the referees, killing Mr (Martin) Atkinson, killing Mr (Keith) Hackett.
“To hear someone talking when he has problems with referees every single week, and now complaining about the fixtures and complaining about everything, I think that is not fair.
“You can see every week how they put (referees) under pressure, we know this. We have seen it before.
“We have seen players sent off at Old Trafford and we do not see our opponents sent off.
“It is part of the game. But to complain and to always have an advantage is not fair.
“During the respect campaign, and this is a fact, Mr Ferguson was charged by the FA for improper conduct after comments made about Martin Atkinson and (the FA’s) Keith Hackett.
“He was not punished. He is the only manager in the league that cannot be punished for these things.”
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