Liverpool, England – Brendan Rodgers hopes the memory of Liverpool's opening day win over Stoke can help inspire his Premier League title-chasers to a rare away victory over the Potters.
Liverpool, once the undisputed kings of English football, haven't won the national championship since 1990.
But Liverpool manager Rodgers saw signs his side could be on the verge of a really significant campaign when new Reds goalkeeper Simon Mignolet saved a penalty late on from Stoke's Jonathan Walters to secure a 1-0 win at Anfield in August.
Liverpool have since added 11 more league wins to that tally and sit fourth in the table, six points behind leaders Arsenal, with a real chance of qualifying for the Champions League.
“You saw the reaction from the penalty save from Simon – I think it was probably the start of the identity of the team and the spirit and the togetherness,” Rodgers said.
“That was something that stayed with us right the way through and something that is growing all the time. I sense that as each day goes by, we're becoming more of a team,” the Northern Irish manager added.
“I see us in the dressing room before games now and there's that real camaraderie amongst us all and that gradually gets better with the more success you have. So hopefully we can keep developing that.
“You work hard all pre-season – and we had an outstanding pre-season – to get that result in your first game, it can set you up. I thought our performance level on the day was very, very good.”
Liverpool have never won at the Britannia Stadium and their last away league win at Stoke came at the Potters' old Victoria Ground back in 1984.
“It's a difficult place to get a result and Liverpool's record there hasn't been so good,” said Rodgers.
“We weren't very good there last year; it's as simple as that,” added Rodgers as he recalled a 3-1 defeat.
“Even on the best of days, it's a tough place to go and their record this year has proven that as well – they've only lost once.
“If it's a blustery day there, it can be difficult to play your football, but for us we go with real strong intentions to get a result.”
Daniel Agger will miss the trip to Stoke with a calf injury but striker Daniel Sturridge returned to training this week after an ankle problem.
Rodgers did not reveal if he would feature but defender Mamadou Sakho is back in contention.
Stoke boss Mark Hughes has confirmed he is hopeful of completing a deal to sign Stephen Ireland on a permanent deal from Aston Villa.
The Republic of Ireland midfielder is currently on a season-long loan following limited opportunities with the Birmingham club.
“We're looking into a permanent deal, that's the intention,” said Hughes, whose side went into this weekend five points above the relegation zone.
“We've had conversations with villa and we would like it to be concluded.
“If it does happen it frees up another loan for us domestically that would give us a bit of flexibility which would help. we'll try and use that loan in a good way.
“We'll be pleased if it does come off and there's no reason to think it wouldn't.
“If Stephen does join permanently that's credit to him since he's been here because he has done very well.”
Hughes also remained keen to add a striker during the January transfer window.
“We're looking at that. We've only really got Kenywne Jones and Peter Crouch so we need more options up front to make sure we're covered until the end of the season,” Hughes, a top-class forward in his playing days, said. – Sapa-AFP