Joe Allen visits his ex, Marco Arnautovic is still on the naughty step and maybe, just maybe, a return beckons for Ibrahim Afellay.
It’s not a plot line for the EastEnders Chrismas Special – it’s Stoke City’s visit to Anfield. On the 27th, yes the 27th. So if you can get out of visiting in-laws on Boxing Day thanks to the football, then you can leave early on the 27th as well.
From Stoke City’s point of view, it does not look good. There have been 65 games between the two at Anfield since 1894.
Liverpool have won 48 and Stoke have won just four. Stoke have not won there in the Premier League since 1958. The last victory for The Potters was last seasons league cup tie.
With both teams losing only one game in their last five and each notching up three clean sheets, each I can see this being a close game.
Many happy returns?
Joe Allen returns to Anfield for the first time since leaving in the summer. Although, he has nothing to prove according to Mark Hughes:
"“I think Joe will want to do well when he goes back there, that is natural…he has nothing to prove there though in fairness, because I know that he was appreciated there by supporters and players alike.”"
Allen will no doubt be looking to put in a solid performance, even if only to show Jurgen Klopp what he is missing.
Although they didn’t part on bad terms, Allen struggled for playing time under the German’s predecessor Brendan Rodgers. Klopp has recently come forward and admitted that the Reds miss the Welshman.
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In an interview with The Liverpool Echo, Klopp openly admitted that Joe Allen is an outstanding player. He also added that he is happy Allen has made such an impact at Stoke City.
Ibrahim Afellay looks set to return after an eight-month lay-off due to a knee ligament injury.
After playing last Friday in an under 23 match against Newcastle, Hughes was recorded as saying:
"“He [Afellay] came through the game strongly, so he is back in the squad and available for selection.”"
This is of course great news for Stoke City as Mark Hughes may seek to rotate his attacking options during the festive period.
Can Stoke City de-rail Liverpool’s title bid?
Liverpool currently sit six points behind league leaders Chelsea. This is a must-win game for the Reds if they wish to make a legitimate push for the title.
However, the Christmas period tends to spit out some rather random results. Last year Stoke City beat Manchester United 2-0 and Everton 4-3 ending 2015 on a high.
Liverpool are still without influential playmaker Philippe Coutinho and defender Joel Matip is also a doubt.
The odds are stacked against Stoke, but stranger things have happened. Surely an upset here will be cause for concern once again over Liverpool’s legitimate title credentials…