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Lee Dixon: Liverpool will struggle to break down Potters' rearguard

The Potters have built a sturdy defence

The Reds, Opta remind me, have done pretty well on the road of late, losing only one of their last seven. When you add that to Stoke's superb home record, everything points to a draw.

Recommended Bets
Back the draw 3.39/4
Back 0-0 @ 9.28/1 and 1-1 @ 7.06/1

The Britannia Stadium has certainly earned it's fortress status this season, says Lee Dixon as he selects his bets for Stoke v Liverpool.

Saturday's 4-0 win over Fulham was a huge result for Liverpool, especially in light of the previous week's defeat to Aston Villa. Martin Jol tried to say that the Reds hadn't played well but I thought they gave a really good performance. 

The much-maligned Steward Downing had a great game. Playing in his favoured position, rather than at left-back, he showed why he was once considered one of the most exciting talents in English football. It may not be too late for him to make a major impact at Liverpool and if Brendan Rodgers can get the best out of him on a consistent basis then he will add thrust to the attack.

I was also delighted to see Steven Gerrard having a very good game and getting on the scoresheet. After being brilliant for England at Euro 2012, he's had a mixed first-half of the season but on Saturday he showed that he remains Liverpool's talisman. As players like Gerrard get older, they can no longer carry a team's fortunes on their shoulder, they have to inspire others to step up. We know what an important player Luis Suarez is but if the likes of Downing and the talented Jonjo Shelvey perform week in week out there's the makings of a very good team.

Liverpool face a big Boxing Day task when they go to the Britannia Stadium to play Stoke. If there were any doubts about the Britannia's status as a Premier League fortress, they've been laid to rest this season - Stoke are the Premier League side who are unbeaten on their own patch and they have the best home defence, with a miserly three conceded. To put that in perspective: Manchester United and City have both conceded three times as many at their grounds.

The crowd at Stoke have always been one of the loudest. When I played for them the decibel was already immense and when they moved to the bigger stadium it was a point of pride that it would become another cauldron that visiting teams would dread. The fantastic atmosphere at Stoke has been worth many points over the years. 

We saw what a stubborn bunch the Potters are when they got a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane on Saturday. Gerrard will need to produce his best defence-splitting passes to breach them and Suarez is going to need to conjure all of his trickery if he's to get past the likes of Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross.

Stoke's brilliant defence record contrasts with their poor scoring form. That's underlined by this Opta stat: the Britannia has witnessed only 11 Premier League goals in 2012/13 - the lowest of any top-flight ground.

Peter Crouch was only on the bench against Tottenham and he's not really had the impact that Tony Pulis would have hoped. I like Jonathan Walters but, with only five goals this season, he needs to be more prolific. Kenwyne Jones, who has only been on the scoresheet twice this term, was substituted at the weekend and may be demoted to the bench against Liverpool.

The Reds, Opta remind me, have done pretty well on the road of late, losing only one of their last seven. When you add that to Stoke's superb home record, everything points to a draw. These two are level on points, with Liverpool ahead on goal difference. The merits of the Stoke backline, and the fact we've seen five 0-0s between the teams since Stoke's promotion to the top flight, suggests that will still be the case at the end of this match. 

Recommended Bets
Back the draw 3.39/4
Back 0-0 @ 9.28/1 and 1-1 @ 7.06/1


The Betfair's Trader's View: Alan Thompson

"Liverpool have only one away defeat in their last seven and Stoke remain unbeaten at home in the Premier League. However, the balance for not conceding also means that they have scored just eight times at the Britannia Stadium.

Liverpool have just two defeats in their last 13 games and have scored 10 goals in their last five. Away from Anfield they have only failed to score on two occasions this season. Liverpool are yet to beat Stoke at the Britannia since they returned to the Premier League in 2008. With two Stoke wins and two draws from the four meetings, every game returned under 2.5 goals.

There's value in laying Liverpool at [2.4], or if you prefer to take a bit more risk for a better return have a look at taking on 0-0 and any high scoring draws or a Stoke victory greater than 2.5 goals by dutch backing Stoke 1-0, 2-0 and the draw 1-1 at around 5/2 (3.5)." 

The Tactical View: Michael Cox

"I think there'll be a lack of goals here - Stoke have stunningly few shots on target but a good record of goals conceded, while Liverpool keep the ball for long periods but don't score enough goals for that dominance - although that's started to change in recent weeks. Still, a 0-0 seems pretty likely to me - 9.4 is quite good value for that."

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24 December 2012

Premier League


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