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New No. 9 Benteke can help Liverpool exorcise demons at Stoke

07 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
New No. 9 Benteke can help Liverpool exorcise demons at Stoke

The time for talking about potential is over - Brendan Rodgers has to get it right this season

Brendan Rodgers begins his fourth season as Liverpool manager with a trip to Stoke City on Sunday.

Whether he gets the opportunity to take that into a fifth year and beyond will depend on him guiding the club into the Champions League again and/or winning a trophy.

The time for talking about potential is over and Rodgers, who has overseen one superb season sandwiched between two average ones, has to get it right this time around.

Returning to the ground where his side lost 6-1 on the final day of last season, then, seems the appropriate place to start.

5/2 – Liverpool to finish in the top four

It is perhaps surprising that the Northern Irishman remains in charge when reflecting on the failings of his players – plus his own resigned body language – that day.

But Rodgers has been backed in the transfer market and should expect time – at least a few months, anyway – to get it right.

His summer outlay of around £75m – not including Danny Ings’ tribunal fee – has taken his overall spending to £312.8m, making him the highest-spending manager in Liverpool’s history.

That, naturally, brings its own pressure.

And while Rodgers would point – not incorrectly – to the large sums received for Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling as mitigation, his record in the transfer market remains highly questionable.

He cannot afford for these players to fail and, fortunately for him, the squad certainly looks stronger than last year.

Christian Benteke, their second most-expensive signing ever and new No. 9, is a proven Premier League goalscorer and a huge upgrade on their strikers from last season.

14/1 – Christian Benteke to be the Premier League’s top scorer

James Milner, meanwhile, is a better option than the past-his-best Steven Gerrard of the previous campaign. At least on the pitch.

It will be fascinating to see how the club copes in the absence of their former talismanic captain. Despite his fading powers, the loss of any player of that magnitude has to be felt somewhere.

Like how Manchester United discovered following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, there is only so much planning that can be done to replace a genius.

The rest has to be experienced – and possibly endured.

It was Gerrard who scored Liverpool’s consolation goal during that lamentable performance at the Britannia in May, but the impetus of incoming signings and natural optimism of the new season should ensure that the Anfield club arrive for this game in a different state of mind.

Not that Stoke – or their bullish manager Mark Hughes – will be fazed.

Hughes has led the club to two ninth-place finishes – while also implementing a more attractive style of play – and will be determined to continue his admirable redevelopment of the club.

The signings of Dutch internationals Ibrahim Afellay – on a free transfer from Barcelona – Marco van Ginkel – on a season-long loan from Chelsea – should add extra flair and creativity to their midfield.

The prospect of those two players linking with the mercurial Bojan – who is likely to be on the substitutes’ bench for the opening game after recovering from the knee ligament damage he suffered in January – is exciting for Potters fans.

And rightly so. The club are a shining example to other sides looking to establish themselves in the Premier League.

8/1 – Stoke to top the Premier League without the Big 6

The downside for Hughes, though, is that his usually-steadfast defence looks a little vulnerable for the visit of Liverpool.

While new first-choice goalkeeper Jack Butland has long been talked about as a future England regular, he lacks top-flight experience. It is hard to see how Asmir Begovic – one of the division’s most reliable stoppers who joined Chelsea this summer – will not be missed.

Captain Ryan Shawcross will also be absent from Sunday’s game after undergoing surgery to cure a long-standing back problem that will keep him out for two months.

Benteke will relish facing a Stoke defence that is without two of their most trusted performers in recent seasons.

If the Belgian striker enjoys a debut – and season – to remember, then Liverpool and Rodgers will be confident of righting their wrongs of last season, beginning at the ground where they suffered their heaviest defeat.

5/4 – Liverpool to beat Stoke

Premier League betting

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