With the situation regarding Luis Suarez’s future still as unresolved as it was when the Premier League wrapped up for the summer 76 days ago, Liverpool are set to begin a six-game trial run of life after Suarez.
The Uruguayan is unavailable for selection due to the unsavoury biting incident with Branislav Ivanovic last season, and as he sits out a further six games, Brendan Rodgers will get an idea of just how lacking, or otherwise, his outfit are without the man who scored 23 league goals last term, with only Robin van Persie scoring more.
Liverpool welcome Mark Hughes’ Stoke City to Anfield, with the visitors 13/2 to take all three points on a ground where they haven’t scored on their last five visits. The draw might prove a popular pick at 16/5 for anyone who can remember any of the four 0-0 draws between these sides in the last five seasons.
It might be a dose of new season positivity, but we see there being goals in this one, however. Liverpool may be without their go-to guy, but if anything, the supporting cast seemed to revel without him at the end of the last campaign, thriving in their new-found responsibility.
In the final four games without Suarez, the Reds scored ten goals and conceded just two as they cemented their seventh placed position.
In particular, the emergence of a blossoming partnership between Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge – who between them scored six of those ten goals – was a real highlight for Rodgers and Liverpool fans, and with Sturridge expected to be fit to once again to link up with the Brazilian, alongside exciting new signing Iago Aspas (who scored 12 goals for Celta Vigo last season), goals should not be in short supply.
Liverpool have found the back of the net frequently in pre-season, with 17 goals in seven games, but have kept it tight at the back too, with their new-look defence featuring Kolo Toure and keeper Simon Mignolet slotting in well, with five clean sheets recorded in those seven.
As for Stoke, they may have a new man at the helm but, despite his respectable managerial record, Hughes is not known to provide his sides the initial kick that new appointments so often do. At Manchester City he lost his first game 4-2 at Aston Villa, while a 0-0 draw at home to Bolton was all he could muster for Fulham, and a 1-0 loss at Newcastle was how he began things at QPR.
The home side are therefore a solid pick at 4/9 to defeat a team that haven’t won at Anfield since 1959, with Sturridge (4/1 to score first) and Coutinho (13/8 to score at any time) the picks of the bunch to find the back of the Stoke net.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.