Mark Hughes could turn his attention to Anfield this summer in a bid to bolster Stoke City’s push for Europe next season.
The Potters boss has high hopes for the new campaign and is looking to add some experience to his squad in the shape of Rickie Lambert and Kolo Toure.
Lambert completed a dream move to Anfield after some impressive displays for Southampton in the top flight but limited game time means he could be tempted to turn his back on his boyhood club in favour of first team football.
Mame Biram Diouf is the Potters’ top scorer this season but is yet to break double figures, a feat Lambert achieved in both his top flight campaigns before joining the Reds.
The former Saints man has featured 31 times for the Merseyside club this season, but with the majority of those appearances coming from the bench the 33-year-old has managed just three goals.
Time is hardly on the former Bristol Rovers and Rochdale star’s side and while the move to Anfield ticked an ambition off his to-do list Hughes will hope the chance to get back among the goals will be too good to turn down.
Toure is out of contract an Anfield this summer and at 34 is unlikely to be offered a lucrative new deal.
This could allow Hughes, who signed the Ivorian for Manchester City during his managerial reign at Eastlands, to tempt the veteran centre-back with the chance to prolong his Premier League campaign and pass off some of his wisdom to the Potters’ younger stars.
Stoke host relegation-threatened Sunderland this weekend and go into the tie as 9/10 favourites having beaten Southampton 2-1 last time out.
The Black Cats can be backed at 7/2 to cause an upset but with Hughes setting his sights on a higher plane a win for the visitors seems an unlikely outcome.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £25 in free bets.