With Mourinho’s non league tactics still fresh in the mind, there’s more good news – Tony Pulis is coming to town on Saturday!
It may have taken Pulis 16 years to become a top flight manager, but since he brought Stoke up in 2008, it’s fair to say the Welshman and his uncompromising teams have been a thorn in our side. Here, I take a look at how the Redmen have fared against Pulis’ teams.
Stoke City – League
The Reds’ first meeting with a Pulis side came in September 2008 as newly promoted Stoke visited Anfield. Despite beating Man Utd in the league for the first time in 4 years just a week earlier, we were held to a 0-0 draw after having an early goal disallowed. This was one of a number of frustrating home draws that season which proved a significant factor in our brilliant 08-09 side just falling short in the title race.
The return game in January 2009 will be remembered for what happened 24 hours earlier as Rafa Benitez, facing the world’s media, read out a series of “facts” questioning Alex Ferguson’s poisonous stranglehold over football. Others prefer to call it “Rafa’s rant.” I don’t, I’m just sorry more managers didn’t have the balls to do likewise. It’ll be debated to kingdom come what affect Rafa’s actions had on the game at the Britannia Stadium and the campaign as a whole, but a second 0-0 draw that season put a dent in the Reds’ title hopes.
In fact, we failed to win away at Stoke at all in the league during Pulis’ time there, drawing 1-1 the season after before losing the following 3 as the likes of Shawcross and Walters were a constant nuisance.
We did fare better at Anfield, winning our opening home game of the 09-10 season 4-0, with Glen Johnson enjoying a spectacular home debut. And who can forget the season after when Luis Suarez marked his Liverpool debut with a goal, complete with Shawcross impersonating Bambi on Ice for comedy affect! The following 2 Anfield encounters were instantly forgettable as Stoke scrapped their way to back to back 0-0 draws. The game in 12-13 was memorable only for Pulis and the media having quite a lot to say about a Luis Suarez dive but not a lot to say about Robert Huth stamping on Suarez in the same game.
Stoke City – Cups
Pulis’ side were defeated on the way to both domestic cup finals in 11-12, with the Reds winning both ties 2-1. Luis Suarez had a night to remember in the Potteries, scoring both goals in the last 16 of the League Cup, while the FA Cup quarter final at Anfield produced a rare memorable moment in the otherwise forgettable Liverpool career of Stewart Downing as the lionheart from Teeside scored the winner to send us to Wembley and an all-Merseyside semi final.
Pulis only faced Liverpool once during his short reign as Crystal Palace manager, in May 2014. I’m sure I don’t need to remind anyone of what happened at Selhurst Park that night.
The Reds have faced the Baggies 3 times since Pulis took over at the Hawthorns in early 2015.
The 2 away games ended in draws; a drab 0-0 in the closing weeks of 14-15, and 1-1 on the final day of last season as the Reds fielded a largely second string team 3 days before the Europa League final in Basel.
Last season’s encounter at Anfield was far more dramatic. WBA came from behind to lead 2-1 and looked to be holding on for a win only for Divock Origi to pop up with a 96th minute equaliser. Jürgen Klopp had been vocal about the defeatism inside Anfield from both players and fans in the previous home games against Southampton and Palace, and buoyed by such a late goal, took the players to the Kop at full time for a show of unity common in his native Germany. It was a big step towards repairing the relationship between players and fans, one that had been instrumental in so much of our success.
Our record against Pulis teams isn’t great – 2 wins out of 14 in the league! It makes our record against Steve Bruce look good! And Pulis will set his team up exactly the same way as every other time he’s faced Liverpool with men behind the ball and tactics not exactly out of the Rinus Michels book of total football! But West Brom aren’t Man Utd and if the Reds hit the heights we showed in the previous 2 home games against Leicester and Hull, I’m confident we’ll get back to winning ways.
Written by @Pilnick_Jimmy