This might be a little early but I'm just relieved that the international break is over and we can look forward to the game at the weekend.
Kelly Carra Agger Enrique
Henderson Lucas Adam
Suarez Kuyt Bellamy
Bench: Doni, Flanagan, Skrtel, Spearing, Maxi, Downing, Carroll
I'm not sure on right back as Kelly and Johnson are both doubtful but I don't think Johnson would be thrown straight back in anyway. The rest of the back four picks itself, the match might suit Coates because of his height but again I don't think away to Stoke would be a good time to give him his debut.
Plenty of options in midfield and attack. Carroll may play to give us an out-ball when Stoke inevitably put us under pressure. Downing's on good form and I expect he'll play but I think my team has a little more fight in it and with Bellamy in there we won't sacrifice much pace. He could be a very good impact sub too if the game isn't going our way.
I'm maybe putting a bit too much emphasis on the pyhsical side of the game but it's good to see that we've got a good mixture of techincal ability and pyhsical attributes in our squad.
As for Stoke, a lot is made of their home form but last season they lost 5 times at the Britannia (Spurs, Man Utd, Blackpool, Fulham and Wigan) so we should have absolutely nothing to fear. They could give debuts to Crouch, Jerome and Palacios so this could be a good time to play them before these new players settle in.
Think Kelly is out for up to 2 weeks, so Spurs is probably a better bet for his return. Might see Skrtel going to right back or Flanagan coming into the team. I'd go for Skrtel, personally (explained later on).
Used this link before for another point, but it's helpful here as well (incomplete as it only goes up to 27th March, but it'll do).
Stoke definitely have a physical presence up front, with a decent amount of goals scored from headers, so height at the back may be important, which is why I think Skrtel may be chosen at right-back. I can also see Coates on the bench, again purely for his height. Obviously, height isn't everything when defending against a team, but it should definitely help for this game.
Interestingly, the numbers imply that Stoke concede quite easily from headers, and in particular from the right-wing. Only for last season though, and Stoke have improved their defence by signing Woodgate and Upson.
I'd go for:
Skrtel Carra Agger Enrique
Henderson Lucas Adam/Shelvey Downing
Kuyt would be unlucky to be the one dropped, but I'm hoping that Andy believes he has a point to prove and this may be a good game for him to get a goal in. I don't know if Adam will be fit either. I'd like to see Shelvey given a go in midfield, but I'd imagine that either Spearing will go in or Henderson will move into the centre and Kuyt will play on the right.
I totally agree that Carroll won't start, this is not the sort of game he was bought for IMO. The way to beat Stoke is to keep the ball on the carpet and play fast passing football, move their defence about and create openings. Suarez has to play and I'd stick Kuyt up top with him. I'd keep Downing in the side, he does not just offer crosses, he also provides pace, width and a threat from the right (if playing on that side).
Johnson - Carragher - Agger - Enrique
Henderson - Lucas - Adam - Downing
Kuyt - Suarez
Due to international duty, Suarez may be a doubt because of the travelling but I think he will start still. I expect to see him replaced by Bellamy at some point, either at half-time or not long after.
I can't see him starting Bellamy over Downing but can see a sub appearance from the Welshman.
If Carroll is fully fit then I reckon he'd start this kind of game, if he isn't then more questions to be asked about him. I understand that Kenny was protecting his player this week but Carroll seemed to be one a summer long piss-up when he really needed to be getting back to top fitness, he's a big lad and needs to be careful to remain fully fit.
I don't think Bellamy will start either, I just thought he might suit this sort of game more than Downing.
If Carroll isn't fit enough then he should be dropped. He seems a bit lumbering to me but I didn't see enough of him pre-Liverpool to know whether that's what he's always like regardless of fitness. We'll see what happens tomorrow but I can see KD starting him as after Capello's comments Carroll's got a point to prove.
It got to me about the summer long partying stuff about carrol, apart from a couple of reporters dogging him while he's on holiday do we have anything else that backs up the claim, afterall, it wouldn't be like a newspaper reporter to highly embellish a story or get the facts wrong to sell a paper would it?