Stoke and Liverpool come into this game after contrasting results at the weekend but that should have little bearing here as, particularly with Man City trailing in the other semi-final, this competition represents the best opportunity for either side to pick up some silverware this season.
After the drama of Liverpool’s 5-4 win at Norwich they face a tough task of focusing again for another match so soon but they do carry a 1-0 lead into this tie after Jordan Ibe’s strike three weeks ago. Stoke are unlikely to roll over though and in four meetings between the two sides since the start of last season the Reds have never scored more than once. The problem for Stoke is that on three occasions they’ve ended up losing 1-0.
Anfield isn’t exactly a fortress, however, and Man Utd and Crystal Palace have both won here twice in the last 12 months while Liverpool’s general form has been anything but consistent. Having largely struggled in front of goal they’ve played out a 3-3 draw with Arsenal and then the nine-goal thriller with Norwich in the past two weeks but Stoke’s defence is unlikely to be quite as friendly as the Canaries was.
Liverpool’s defence has kept just one clean sheet in their seven matches since the turn of the year – at home against Exeter – so they may well have to score themselves to ensure their progression. They have netted at least once in 14 of their 15 home games since September – the recent Man Utd game being the sole blank – as both teams have scored in 10 of the matches, but with Carlisle, Chelsea, Middlesbrough, Bolton and Blackburn all managing draws in domestic cup matches at Anfield since 2014 we’d certainly prefer backing goals to Liverpool at 1.8 in a match they don’t even need to win.
Stoke’s defeat at the weekend meant they slipped behind Liverpool in the league, though more significant than the loss could be the injury to Ryan Shawcross that leaves him a doubt here. The skipper missed the first two months of the season with a back injury and the Potters will be hoping this issue is not as serious. Marko Arnatutovic’s presence is also questionable though he’s expected to be fit to start. Of course Liverpool have more than enough absences of their own to think that team news shouldn’t be the determining factor here and Stoke will have good memories from their last trip to Merseyside as they had a thrilling 4-3 win at Everton just after Christmas.
One goal for Liverpool doesn’t overly affect Stoke so they may well look to take chances and throw a few extra men forward. Their last four away matches have all had at least three goals, as have 12 of the 16 League Cup semi-final second legs since 2008, and the Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams to Score market look appealing at odds against.
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