The continuous flow of winter fixtures does not give Jurgen Klopp any respite as he will face his first Semi-Final as a Liverpool manager. Liverpool beat Southampton 6-1 in the Quarterfinal of the League Cup a couple of months ago and set this thrilling Semi-final against Stoke City this week.

Both the clubs are fresh after suffering losses in the Premier League weekend and will be hoping to bounce back and book a place at Wembley Stadium for the final of the League Cup.  This fixture is a two legged affair and both teams will be hoping to go into the second leg with an advantage. Here is the preview of the game along with the Team News, Predictions, Expected Line-ups and Betting Odds.

The first leg of the League Cup semi-final will be played on Tuesday the 5th of January at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke. The kick off is scheduled at 8:00 pm (1:30 am on Wednesday IST).

Team News:

Stoke City are not missing too many first team players for this Cup fixture on Tuesday, Shay Given will be out of the game due to injury as Jack Buland will keep his place in the starting XI. Stephen Ireland and Marc Muniesa are also side-lined for this game for Mark Hughes’ side. Glen Johnson and Erik Pieters are expected to start on the wings while Arnautovic, Shaqiri and Bojan are all expected to start for the hosts.

Jurgen Klopp on the other hand has plenty of injury problems for this trip. Skipper Jordan Henderson, defender Martin Skrtel and attacker Divock Origi are all un-available for this fixture while Danny Ings and Joe Gomez are long term absentees. Daniel Sturridge has already made it public that he is fit but the manager does not want to hurry him back into the game and may give him a place on the bench. It will be interesting to see if Klopp gives Benteke his 3rd consecutive start.

 

 

Expected Line-ups:

Stoke City:

Jack Butland; Pieters, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Johnson; Cameroon, Wheelan, Adam; Bojan, Shaqiri, Arnautovic.

Liverpool:

Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Smith; Lucas, Allen; Texiera, Lallana, Ibe; Benteke.

Key Battles:

Shawcross vs Lallana:

After getting some rest in the game against the Hammers, Lallana is bound to be back in the mid-field and will be an important outlet for Liverpool. He will have to be closely marked but the Stoke City defenders and Shawcross who has been in good form recently will be responsible to keep him quite in the final third.

Shaqiri vs Smith:

Brad Smith has impressed many at Merseyside and is in line for a start on Tuesday. He will be up against Swiss International Xehrdan Shaqiri who has slowly found some form recently. It will be interesting to see how the young full back fares against the trickery and skill of Shaqiri. This battle can well decide the fate of the first leg.

Betting Odds:

Stoke City: 9/5

Draw: 23/10

Liverpool: 6/4

Prediction:

Stoke City have recently played some good football and are looking a strong side in the Premier League. Though the League cup provides different challenges, a traditionally tough trip to Stoke City in winter might be too much for Klopp’s brigade to handle. However, the quality in the Liverpool squad can easily get the job done if they are able to play to their potential.

Our Prediction:

Stoke City 1-1 Liverpool

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