That's all from me. Thanks for your company, and congratulations for surviving another Christmas. Bye!
Brendan Rodgers speaks!
It was a great start, but we just gave away poor goals tonight. All three goals were actually quite straightforward to defend. The first was unfortunate, the other two goals we've got to do much better. When you come to places like here you've got to defend better or you'll get nothing, and we probably deserve nothing.
Everyone knows the strengths of Stoke, and they do it very well, but when you're prepared to deal with it it's even more disappointing. We had some good spells in the game, but you've got to be better. I've always said Stoke don't quite get the credit they deserve. They've got some terrific players, but from our perspective it was poor defending.
A penalty, a great big hoof, a corner and a long throw. None of the four goals had much by way of build-up, though the last was sublimely taken by Walters. Stoke played excellently in a Stokey fashion – all hard work and organisation, with occasional outbreaks of skill. Liverpool played poorly, particularly in the second half. I think they're two excellent players away from being a quite decent team, four away from being a good team, and Shelvey in particular, despite playing the entire game, did nothing at all good at any point.
Some interesting statistics:
• Liverpool have never had fewer points after 19 games since the three points for a win rule was brought in.
• Stoke scored more than twice in a Premier League match for the first time in 44 games.
• This was the 72nd Premier League game in a row that Jonathan Walters has been in Stoke’s starting line-up.
• Liverpool had seven shots blocked, and Stoke three. This isn't because Liverpool had more shots, it's because Stoke are particularly good at blocking.
• Liverpool attempted 496 passes; Stoke 285.
• Of Liverpool's team only Reina (72.7%) had lower pass completion than Shelvey (73.7%). Kenwyne Jones succeeded with only 44.4% of his 27 passes.
Final score: Stoke City 3-1 Liverpool
90+4 mins: Howard Webb blows the final whistle, and Stoke have a thoroughly deserved victory.
90+3 mins: Liverpool continue to huff and puff, but the latest move was at least enlightened by a nice Gerrard backheel in midfield.
90+2 mins: Suárez shoots low from 30 yards, but miskicks and the ball rumbles wide.
90+1 mins: In the first half we had two goals and one minute of stoppage time. In the second half we had no goals, a few substitutions, and we're having four minutes of stoppage time. Why do referees love second-half stoppage time so much?
89 mins: Gerrard's 30-yard shot is well saved by Begovic, even if it never looked likely to actually go in.
88 mins: Stoke may not be the world's best side to watch, but I imagine they're an extremely good team to support. Their players, all of them, from front to back, continue to work like absolute beasts to stop Liverpool from doing anything good. Their performance tonight has been precisely the opposite of Fulham's at Anfield the other day.
87 mins: Suárez takes the free-kick himself, and curls it delicately into the wall. If you're going to hit the ball into the wall, you might as well hit it hard enough to hurt them.
86 mins: Whelan, who has been pretty good up to this point, fouls Suárez from behind just outside his penalty area, gives away a free-kick and is booked.
85 mins: Liverpool have not shown a great deal of quality in this half. I think they've got sixth elevenths of a pretty good team.
85 mins: Stoke have brought on Shotton for Etherington.
82 mins: Shelvey's attempt to get on the end of Enrique's cross involves pushing Shawcross, attempting to kick Begovic, and then pushing Huth.
79 mins: The only way I can see Liverpool getting back into this is if Stoke have a man sent off in the next five minutes. Otherwise, the home side seem fairly comfortable, if you can possibly call massively exerting themselves comfortable.
78 mins: Stoke bring on Peter Crouch and take off Kenwyne Jones, who has played well.
77 mins: A gorgeous flick from Etherington gives Walters a tiny amount of space, but he still manages to find Wilkinson, whose shot is charged down. Liverpool replace Downing with Cole.
76 mins: Joe Cole is preparing to save Liverpool's bacon.
75 mins: The tempo remains high, but the sense of imminent-goalness, which never left in the first half, is missing.
74 mins: A Liverpool move notable for featuring Shelvey twice without ending, ends with Johnson's shot being blocked.
71 mins: Whitehead's first touch involves diving-headering Reina, who was first to Etherington's cross.
69 mins: Gerrard tackles Jones, and while Stoke demand a free-kick Liverpool break. In the end Suárez's telegraphed shot is blocked at least once, and Gerrard's attempted follow-up cross is poor. And with that, Stoke bring on Whitehead and take off Kightly.
68 mins: Downing shoots from the free-kick, but neither the angle nor his ability are good enough.
67 mins: Downing is bundled over by Shawcross on the very edge of Stoke's penalty area. Definitely not a penalty.
65 mins: Some nice play from Liverpool involving Sterling on the left, Suárez and eventually Henderson, ends with the latter falling over in the box and accidentally touching the ball with an arm. Moments later Suárez sweeps the ball into the net, but the whistle had gone.
63 mins: Cameron, already booked, take down Sterling. The free-kick is given, and it could so easily have been a yellow card. But it isn't.
60 mins: Suárez collects the ball from Sterling, lays it back to Enrique and then turns and heads for the penalty area. Enrique plays the ball, Begovic comes to clear it and then dives over the rapidly advancing Suárez with extreme showiness. Not much in it, but it looked very impressive, and Suárez is booked as a result.
59 mins: Henderson comes on for Lucas.
58 mins: Don't worry, Liverpool fans – Jordan Henderson's coming on!
57 mins: Downing's corner flies towards Skrtel, who controls the ball but is forced away from goal and eventually out of the area. At no point did Huth not have a hold of his shirt.
54 mins: Gerrard plays one of his 50 yard Hollywood passes. At no point during its trajectory does it come within 15 yards of another Liverpool player, and Stoke end up with a throw-in.
53 mins: It's perhaps a shame, given that Stoke have been excellent from open play, that their three goals have come from a long punt forward, a corner and a long throw, which doesn't do a lot to change the stereotype.
50 mins: Half-chance for Liverpool! Downing chases down Gerrard's overhit corner and shovels it back inside, where Johnson shoots over the bar.
GOAL! Stoke 3-1 Liverpool (Walters, 49)
Stoke score from a long throw! Jones flicks it on, and Walters controls it on his chest and volleys past Reina. Excellently done.
47 mins: Sterling makes a chance with his first touch! He beats Shawcross on the left and pulls the ball back, a little slowly, to Suárez, whose mishit shot spins wide.
We're off! Again!
46 mins: Liverpool get the second half under way, and they do so with no Suso on the pitch, and with a Raheem Sterling on it instead.
Liverpool had a terrible middle 20 minutes, but it was otherwise a compelling and quite equal game. Downing and Suárez are playing well for Liverpool, and Shelvey poorly; Jon Walters has been excellent for Stoke.
45+1 mins: Howard Webb blows his whistle, and that's yer lot for this half. It's been manic.
45+1 mins: We're currently enjoying the only minute of stoppage time we're gonna get.
45 mins: Gerrard tries to find Suárez with a low pass into the penalty area. I count seven Stoke players between the two Liverpool men, including the one who intercepts the ball.
44 mins: Reina plays his team into trouble with a poor clearance, which gives Walters a chance to cross from the right. The ball finds Etherington beyond the far post, Reina comes out, and the pair get in a bit of a mess from which Reina emerges with the ball.
42 mins: Shelvey collects the ball 30 yards from goal in loads of space. 95% of professional footballers, given that much space within shooting range of goal, will shoot. Shelvey shoots. It's rubbish.
41 mins: Gerrard shoots emphatically over from 30 yards. "Does Rodgers write with a pen or a pencil?" asks JR, prompted by the picture of the Liverpool gaffer's notepad (33mins). "And also, how does he keep his pad of paper dry? I've seen him writing in it in a downpour and can't figure out how it doesn't get all smudgy." I'd have thought he must use Liverpool's aura of invincibility to keep it dry. Not much sign of it on the pitch these days.
39 mins: The last few minutes have been much better for Liverpool, with Downing and Suárez to the fore. The latter just won a corner, which the former will take.
36 mins: Downing plays the ball to Suárez, who shoots low and hard from an acute angle, and Begovic saves.
34 mins: José Enrique has the ball in the left back position. Stoke cut off all his possible outlets, and after a bit of dithering he basically crosses the ball to Matthew Etherington, whose header from outside the area goes wide.
33 mins: Here's a picture of Brendan Rodgers' notepad, taken at this game. I can make out the words "tempo", "zone" and "Berbatov", at least one of which doesn't seem entirely pertinent.
29 mins: Suárez passes to Downing, who pulls the ball back to the Uruguayan, whose first-time shot from an unpromising angle flies very high and wide. "I'm desperately trying to watch the football on TV," writes Kevin Comber. "Instead it's been relegated behind watching my six-year-old and four-year-old cousins sing Jedward songs. I don't know what I've done to deserve this." I don't care if they are six and four, if they want to sing Jedward songs they can do it in private.
28 mins: Chance for Gerrard! Downing gets down the left, and his low ball finds Gerrard arriving from deep, and his shot goes perhaps half a yard wide.
26 mins: Stoke have been excellent for the last 15 minutes. Liverpool have barely been in the game, with a lovely Suso pass towards Suárez, which the forward couldn't quite control, by some distance the best thing the visitors have done in that time.
24 mins: Wilkinson pegs down the right. Enrique catches up, looks to have taken the ball, loses it again and Wilkinson continues into the penalty area, where Agger blocks his shot.
22 mins: Good save! N'Zonzi's cross flicks off Enrique and rolls to Etherington at the edge of the area, and his effort is fizzing just below the crossbar when Reina flicks out a hand to push it over. That's the first effort from either side not to go into the net.
20 mins: "We've discussed that precise penalty situation (i.e. holding that starts outside the box and continues into it) many times in refereeing courses," point-of-informations Christopher Burke, as Shelvey's run into the penalty area is well picked out but the bald one's first touch is useless. "It doesn't matter where the offence starts – by rule the referee punishes the most serious offence if multiple or continuous infringements occur. Ergo Howard Webb was right to punish the holding in the box regardless of when it occurred. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to read the You Are The Ref commemorative edition; this game is just too dull."
19 mins: Shelvey crosses low, and Suso would have reached the ball in a good position had he not fallen over. That's the second fairly important Liverpool slippage thus far.
17 mins: If Liverpool's players were all blindfolded, their passes couldn't be any less accurate. Possession is changing hands with ludicrous regularity.
14 mins: Chance for Liverpool! Suso's low cross trundles across the penalty area to Suárez, 15 yards from goal, who turns and shoots into a defender's shins.
GOAL! Stoke 2-1 Liverpool (Jones 12)
And the second corner ends in a goal! Whelan takes it on the left, and Jones gets between Gerrard and Agger to win the header, level with the near post, and send the ball at a 90 degree angle in at that very upright!
12 mins: Stoke have been camped out in Liverpool's penalty area for the last minute or so, with a couple of corners and a throw-in along the way.
10 mins: A disgraceful lack of goals in the second five minutes of this match, which has seen lots of frantic and rather imprecise action.
7 mins: You see, I was right to think I was wrong to not be looking forward to this match. It has already done enough to have been worth watching.
GOAL! Stoke City 1-1 Liverpool (Walters, 5)
Sky miss the entire build-up to the goal while they show a replay of the penalty incident. It's a long ball from Huth, which flicks off a defender's head to leave Walters in a duel against Skrtel. The defender falls over, and Walters is free to smash the ball into the net.
4 mins: Cameron is booked for overturning Lucas. This is not going Stoke's way, so far.
GOAL! Stoke City 0-1 Liverpool (Gerrard 2, pen)
Gerrard calmly strokes the ball perfectly into the bottom left corner, with Begovic diving in the wrong direction.
Penalty to Liverpool!
Suárez takes the ball past Shawcross on the right and cuts into the penalty area. Shawcross takes a good handful of the Uruguayan's shirt, but first did so outside the box. No matter, it's a penalty!
1 min: Peeeeeeeeeep! The referee's whistle blows, and Stoke get the match under way.
Here's evidence of the way Stoke divide footballing folk. "As an Arsenal fan, I sincerely hope Liverpool's talented youngsters escape Stoke's brutes without any lasting damage," writes Kay Cinquez. "Pulis' team are a disgrace to the beautiful game." Tom Shaw, on the other hand, writes: "I admire Stoke, they're a sort of anti-Christ of the modern game. Proof that the little man with the cloth cap and the hob-nailed boots can make a living amongst all the Fancy Dans with their tippy tappy. Though I wouldn't want to watch them too often."
The players are in the tunnel. Football is coming our way. Well, my way.
More random statistics: Stoke have scored more than one goal in four matches this season. Only QPR and Aston Villa (both three) have got multiple goals less frequently. So far in this season's Premier League they have conceded four times in the first five minutes of second halves, more than in all other second-half minutes put together.
Stoke City's home league results this season in full: 0-0, 1-1, 2-0, 0-0, 1-0, 1-0, 2-1, 1-1. Three away goals, eight home goals, five clean sheets.
The teams are in, and they look very much like this:
Stoke: Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Wilkinson, Kightly, Nzonzi, Whelan, Etherington, Walters, Jones. Subs: Sorensen, Adam, Whitehead, Upson, Crouch, Shotton, Jerome.
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique, Gerrard, Lucas, Downing, Shelvey, Suso, Suárez. Subs: Jones, Cole, Henderson, Coates, Carragher, Allen, Sterling.
Referee: Howard Webb.
This is what Martin Skrtel's got to say about the match: "The game against Stoke is not about the football it is about the fight and the tackles. The fighting in the box at throws, corners and free-kicks was always part of the game but it can be too much. What they do is sometimes too much but they are doing well this season, keeping clean sheets. We have to deal with it and that is the key for us as defenders, to fight against them and then our creative players can play our game and try to score goals."
In other words: Stoke are a bunch of brawlers who won't let us play the lovely football with which we usually blow teams away like so much flimsy, floaty dandelion seedy stuff. And though this seems a rather facile way of dismissing Tony Pulis's estimable success at Stoke, the teams' most recent meeting did proceed along those lines. Liverpool enjoyed 63% of the possession, took 72% of the shots, were shown 0% of the yellow cards (Stoke's players got six), executed 100% of the ludicrous dives (Suárez balletic leap over Marc Wilson's foot) and scored not a single goal (it finished 0-0). "It was a physical game but there are no complaints from us," said Brendan Rodgers.
Truth is, since Stoke turned up in the Premier League they have been every bit Liverpool's equals – each side has two home wins and the other five games have been drawn, with not an away win between them. The last three league matches have brought a combined totaliser tally of one goal, a penalty by Jonathan Walters that brought Stoke victory in this equivalent fixture last season.
Liverpool are on TV quite a lot. Some fixtures – like, say, Liverpool v Newcastle – will always be televised because a couple of the games were good once. Others – like Liverpool v Manchester United – will always be televised because the teams are great rivals and there tends to be drama. This, though, is just another televised match. The only thing that makes me look forward to this game at all is the fact that I'm not looking forward to this game at all, and I know from bitter experience that I'm very often wrong about whether a game should be looked forward to.
Season's greetings ....
Good evening everybody. Simon will be here with the team news and build-up from the Britannia Stadium from 7pm. In the meantime, here's a short preview of tonight's match, written by David Hytner: Tony Pulis's rigorous work on team structure has made Stoke a stubborn proposition but the manager has put the fans on a special programme to gain an edge against Liverpool. "We are praying that our supporters have a belly full of turkey and they want to work it off," he said. "We will need them because it will be a tough night."