Liverpool-Stoke City Preview
By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
STATS Senior Writer
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Two clubs with vastly different ambitions meet on Boxing Day when Stoke City look to maintain their recent success against Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium.
These sides are on 25 points, with Liverpool in eighth place and Stoke City in ninth, but the mindset for both could not be further apart.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers still believes his side can gain a Champions League spot since they are five points out of those places.
"We'll get better in the second half of the season," Rodgers said. "We just need to keep improving, keep working on our consistency. If we can do that, then we'll be in with a great chance of progressing up the league.
While the Potters are enjoying being in the top half of the table, they still want to focus on safety first.
"Forty points, that's what we want," boss Tony Pulis said. "There are six or seven clubs that are outstanding teams. The rest of us are fighting for our lives, and that's what we've got to do."
Stoke City join Everton as one of two unbeaten home teams in the Premier League with four victories and four draws.
The Potters have won their last two league meetings with the Reds at the Britannia, making them unbeaten in the last four here. Liverpool won 2-1 in their last visit in the League Cup on Oct. 26, 2011.
Rodgers got the response he wanted from his side with a 4-0 victory over Fulham on Saturday that followed a 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa at Anfield the previous week. Martin Skrtel, Steven Gerrard and Stewart Downing all scored before Luis Suarez ended a four-match drought without a goal with the final tally.
"I thought every level of our game tonight was fantastic," Rodgers said. "Our pressure and pressing in the game was terrific and obviously the quality of our football was outstanding."
Downing scored his first Premier League goal for the Reds after he conceded last week he might have to leave the club in the January transfer window.
"I'm just trying to work hard and take the opportunity when I'm given it," Downing said. "I'm here to play and as long as I get the opportunity I'll try my best."
It will be a major challenge to score past Asmir Begovic, who leads the Premier League with nine clean sheets including a scoreless draw at Anfield on Oct. 7. The Potters have posted three straight clean sheets against the Reds.
Stoke City remain the Premier League's draw specialists after their third straight and 10th overall in Saturday's 0-0 finish with Tottenham Hotspur. They are unbeaten in eight.
The Potters own the top-flight's joint-worst attack with 15 goals, although Pulis will not apologise for his tactics.
"We work very, very hard on the shape of the team and trying to do certain things, you know, defending is part of the game," Pulis said.
Peter Crouch has been a substitute the last three games for Stoke City since a collision with Newcastle defender Fabricio Coloccini on Nov. 28. Crouch has failed to score in his last 11 matches.
Updated December 24, 2012