stoke football players

COC semi: Stoke v Liverpool preview

Reds favourites to win first leg 

Liverpool are 29/20 favourites to win the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final at Stoke despite their poor record at the Britannia Stadium.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp knows Stoke pose a considerable hurdle as he bids to take another step towards a first trophy in English football, especially as Liverpool have won just three times in their last nine visits to the Potteries.

Under Mark Hughes, Stoke have become more focused on attacking football and Klopp is an admirer of the turnaround his opposite number has achieved.

“Mark Hughes does a brilliant job there. Good scouting in the summer, maybe the biggest change in football is how Stoke played a few months or years ago and how they are playing now. That is really good,” said the German.

Stoke have enjoyed home wins against Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United in the last two months but can be backed at 41/20 to earn a lead to take to Anfield for the second leg.

The 22 goals Liverpool have scored in 20 league matches is the lowest in their history and with Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Danny Ings all injured, they are operating with one fit striker in Christian Benteke.

Although the Belgium international scored goals in the two matches immediately after Christmas, he drew a blank in Saturday's defeat at West Ham and has so far not convinced but he is the 5/1 favourite to score the opening goal.

Injuries continue to dog Klopp with Jordan Henderson likely to sit out the match after a recurrence of a foot problem which caused him to miss the West Ham defeat at the weekend.

Liverpool are 33/100 to win the semi-final and reach Wembley, where Klopp last visited as Borussia Dortmund manager when they lost 2-1 to Bayern Munich in the 2013 Champions League final. 

He has impressed on his players the significance of seeing things through to the end, with Liverpool 8/5 to win the competition.

“It is always important because if you have the chance and you don't try to go for it then it is a waste of time,” he said.

“It is not our target to be part of the final, there is only one reason in tournaments like this and it is to win it. How important it can be for our development is a question we can only answer in a few weeks or months.”