Liverpool-Stoke City Preview

The Associated Press

If Liverpool are going to keep pace with the top of the Premier League table, they're going to have to find more success away from Anfield. Their first opportunity to do so in 2014 comes against a Stoke City side that have just one home blemish this season.

The Reds head to the Britannia Stadium Sunday hoping to improve on a seven-match stretch away from Anfield that has yielded just five points, but they could have striker Daniel Sturridge back to help after a nine-match absence.

Liverpool (12-3-5) are fourth in the table with 39 points, six points behind first-place Arsenal.

"We know really well how difficult it is to play against Stoke in front of their fans and it is never easy," centre back Martin Skrtel told the club's official website. "However, we want to win this game at all costs and continue our good run of form. And we want to stay on top so we really need three points from this game."

Their best player has also been less effective away from Anfield. Luis Suarez has 15 of his 20 top-flight strikes at home, including one in a 2-0 win over Hull City on Jan. 1 at Anfield.

The win closed out the festive period on a high note after suffering 2-1 losses at Manchester City and Chelsea.

Manager Brendan Rodgers' side will also be out to end a three-match league losing streak at the Britannia. Since Jan. 10, 2009, Liverpool are 0-2-3 there in Premier League matches with just two goals to their credit.

More recently, they opened this season with a 1-0 home win over the Potters. With Suarez suspended, Sturridge scored with a 37th-minute strike. They've had to look elsewhere for offense lately as Sturridge hasn't played since injuring his ankle in training on Nov. 29, though he could return against Stoke.

After getting midfielder Steven Gerrard back against Hull, depth is returning to Merseyside, though centre back Daniel Agger suffered a calf strain during Sunday's FA Cup win over Oldham Athletic and is expected to miss time.

"It's been difficult," coach Mike Marsh said. "We've lost a number of players to injury - some minor, some more serious. But the players who have come in have done really well and we've managed to win the last two games."

Stoke (5-7-8) are 4-5-1 at home this season with a seven-match unbeaten streak at the Britannia on their side after a 1-1 draw there against Everton on Jan. 1. It has them positioned in 12th with 22 points.

Oussama Assaidi scored for the Potters in the 49th minute, and it held up until a stoppage time penalty was converted by Everton's Leighton Baines. The Potters now haven't won in their last three matches and they've conceded nine goals in that time after a 5-1 loss at Newcastle and 3-0 loss at Tottenham.

Assaidi, tied with Peter Crouch for second on the team with three top-flight goals, will miss the match against Liverpool, his parent club, due to league rules.

"We have started the year well - maybe we are still disappointed not to have won the game against Everton, but a point wasn't bad," Assaidi told the club's official website. "Hopefully, the lads can build upon that game, and the win against Leicester (Jan. 4 in the FA Cup), and take the points from the Liverpool game which would set us up nicely for the rest of the season."

Crouch has one goal in 13 matches against Liverpool since leaving the club in 2008.

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