Liverpool were held to a goalless draw by Stoke City on a frustrating Saturday afternoon at Anfield.
Mohamed Salah spurned an early chance and the manner in which he raced clear of the visitors’ high defensive line appeared to lead Paul Lambert to instruct his backline to drop deeper.
Subsequently, the Reds found it difficult to carve out sights of Jack Butland’s goal, with Danny Ings’ disallowed effort - ruled out for a marginal offside call - shortly before half-time the closest they came to making the breakthrough.
But despite the disappointment of seeing two points slip away, Liverpool remain in control of their own destiny in terms of the race for a top-four finish.
Jürgen Klopp elected to make five changes to his starting line-up, with Ragnar Klavan, Alberto Moreno, Joe Gomez, Georginio Wijnaldum and Ings coming in.
Dejan Lovren, Andy Robertson and James Milner were named on the bench but, along with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Sadio Mane missed out altogether due to a fitness issue.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, starting as part of the Reds’ midfield three, saw early appeals for a penalty waved away when he stumbled under pressure from Moritz Bauer, but the hosts’ wait for a clear chance was only extended until the sixth minute.
Jordan Henderson combined with Salah to spring in behind the Potters’ defence and, given his recent penchant for dinked finishes, it was no surprise to see Liverpool’s leading scorer lift the ball over the advancing Butland.
It was, however, something of a shock when his attempt hit the advertising hoardings behind the goal as opposed to the back of the net.
Alexander-Arnold had the hosts’ next opportunity, the No.66 racing beyond Salah and collecting the Egyptian’s clever pass only to see his low shot smothered by Butland.
That was sandwiched by two presentable chances for Stoke, though, with Mame Biram Diouf first nodding Bauer’s delivery into the side-netting before Xherdan Shaqiri’s low cross narrowly evaded the sliding Peter Crouch.
Liverpool quickly regained command and Butland was sent scrambling across his goal twice in quick succession around the half-hour mark, when Wijnaldum and Salah, from a free-kick, shot into the side-netting.
Ings then thought he’d broken the deadlock four minutes before the break when he lashed home the loose ball after Wijnaldum’s effort had deflected to him, but the offside flag was up to ensure the teams went in level.
Klopp tweaked Liverpool’s system at the interval, with the Reds switching to three at the back and Alexander-Arnold and Moreno operating as wing-backs.
Immediately there was more urgency in the hosts’ passing, although unpicking the lock of an increasingly-deep Stoke defence was proving tough.
Milner and Nathaniel Clyne were introduced from the bench midway through the half and the latter was soon into the action, heading straight at Butland from Klavan’s lofted cross before Moreno drilled wide from distance.
Erik Pieters escaped sanction when Wijnaldum’s late cross, which appeared bound for an unmarked Moreno, struck his outstretched arm in the penalty area.
And one point very nearly turned into zero for Liverpool when Ryan Shawcross was a fraction away from stabbing in from close range at the other end, but the game ended in stalemate.
Liverpool were held to a goalless draw by Stoke City at Anfield on Saturday afternoon in the Premier League. Here's how the action unfolded in photos.
The Reds had chances to win the game - most notably when Mohamed Salah was sent clear early on, but he couldn't convert the one-on-one situiation as the teams were forced to settle for a point apeice.
Browse our gallery of images from the game below.
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The importance of qualifying for next season's Champions League dictated Jürgen Klopp's decisions when choosing his Liverpool XI to face Stoke City.
The Reds host the Potters at Anfield with three points required to remain on course to secure a top-four finish and with it a place in the 2018-19 edition of Europe’s elite club competition.
Klopp’s men have the second leg of a semi-final in this year’s tournament to come in Rome on Wednesday night, of course, but the manager reiterated his absolute focus on Stoke first.
“For us, each game of the last few is a Champions League game,” he said.
“Like today against Stoke – it’s for qualification for next year. We want to be, and have to be, part of it again. The next game is a semi-final for this year’s Champions League.
“[But] the first thought I had was to make a line-up with which we can beat Stoke. That was the plan. It will be difficult enough anyway.”
The jersey of St. Peter's GAA, Dunboyne was hung in the Anfield dressing room ahead of Saturday’s fixture with Stoke City in a show of support for Sean Cox.
The first team paid tribute to the Reds fan, who is in a critical condition in hospital following an attack before Tuesday's Champions League match with AS Roma, by positioning the shirt between Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah’s.
Danny Ings starts up front as Jürgen Klopp makes five changes to his Liverpool team for the Premier League clash with Stoke City.
The striker, who scored the opener at West Bromwich Albion a week ago, makes his first start at Anfield since October 1, 2015.
Joe Gomez, Ragnar Klavan, Alberto Moreno and Georginio Wijnaldum also come into the XI as the Reds aim to move closer to Champions League qualification.
Sadio Mane is absent from the squad after sustaining an injury this week.
Liverpool team: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Klavan, Moreno, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Ings.
Substitutes: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Milner, Robertson, Solanke, Woodburn.
So, what do we know ahead of kick-off?
Sadio Mane is a doubt for the Reds after Jürgen Klopp confirmed the Senegal international picked up a 'not too serious' issue this week.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's season is over due to the knee ligament injury he sustained against AS Roma, while Emre Can and Adam Lallana remain unavailable.
For Stoke, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (groin) and Konstantinos Stafylidis (rib) are ruled out, and former Liverpool full-back Glen Johnson (groin) is a doubt.
Jürgen Klopp would like Ragnar Klavan to prolong his Liverpool career by signing a contract extension.
The Estonia defender joined the Reds from FC Augsburg in the summer of 2016 and has since made 51 appearances for the club.
Klopp knows any agreement for Klavan to remain at Anfield beyond the length of his current deal must be convenient for all parties - but there is no doubt from his side.
"Yes, of course," the manager said of his hopes to retain Klavan's services.
"[He is a] fantastic player, really good footballer, he has all what you need. Of course I would but there are two sides to it."
Jürgen Klopp has addressed Liverpool fans ahead of this afternoon's encounter with Stoke City at Anfield and told them: "We need you today more than at any point this season."
The Reds return to Premier League duties with a clash against the Potters and will be hoping to clinch three points to edge nearer to clinching a top-four finish.
Despite this fixture falling in between the two legs of the Champions League semi-final with AS Roma, Klopp insists there’ll be no distractions for his players – and he wants supporters to do their bit too.
He writes in ‘This is Anfield’: “I want to address these notes directly to our supporters, with a message that is absolutely essential for the team: we need you and Anfield today more than at any point during this season.
“Your performance today will be as important and as influential as any ‘European night’, including what you did on Tuesday. You know the impact you can have. You know you possess the ability to create a situation where your positive energy transmits itself to our players on the pitch.
“Last week, in the build-up to the Roma game, I saw on a supporters site someone talking about ‘the 12th man’ factor when it comes to Anfield and the power you can all have – and the person speaking on this subject made an unbelievably important point which sums up exactly why you are so vital to us. It’s not actually about being a ‘12th man’, an extra body as such – although I love that phrase and understand what it means – but in practical terms it’s more about what you do for our 11. It’s bigger than being just one extra person. You guys make our 11, the 11 in the red shirts, better and stronger with the energy you bring. Anfield at its best lifts our team to another level.
“We saw it on Tuesday, we have seen it countless times this season already. The true power of the ‘12th man’ at its very best, in its truest form, isn’t that we have a one-player advantage – it gives us an 11-player advantage. That’s what it means.
“The reason this message is so important isn’t because I have concerns about atmosphere today – the opposite actually. It’s because I know you can help us and as manager my job is to find and exploit every advantage available.
“My players have no excuses today. In fairness to them they don’t need telling this, they already know it. The players know today is the most important game of our season. The players know this is a really difficult task against a high-quality opponent fighting for everything. But the players also know they have to deliver – end of story.
“The game before this one and the game after are completely irrelevant to us in this moment. I care not for one second when preparing for Stoke about what happened last Tuesday or what might happen next Wednesday. Distractions only avert your attention when you allow them to. We will not lose focus – it is that simple.
“So, although I know the responsibility is 100 per cent on us, the team and management, to deliver for you the supporters, I ask that you recognise your power and influence on this day. Be part of an atmosphere that unifies us as team and fans in showing we focus only on this match; that the three points today are all that matters; that today is the most important game of our season.
“We need this mindset and as ‘the 12th man’ you can make the 11 stronger.”
Pick up your copy of 'This is Anfield' at the stadium this afternoon, or subscribe online by clicking here.
Jordan Henderson has explained why Mohamed Salah was eager to have Liverpool represented as a team when he collected the PFA Players' Player of the Year award last weekend.
The Egyptian collected the accolade in London on Sunday after being voted for by his fellow professionals from all four divisions in England, becoming the first Red to pick it up since Luis Suarez in 2014.
Henderson accompanied Salah to the event – and the captain has used his notes in ‘This is Anfield’ to highlight a special gesture from the No.11.
He writes: “There is probably no player on the planet at the moment more written and spoken about than Mo Salah. He’s the person everyone in the game, be it supporter, media or even players, are talking about – and for all the right reasons.
“Last Sunday I accompanied him to London for the PFA Awards where he was crowned player of the season, voted for by his fellow professionals. For those of you who don’t know about the mechanisms of this, it’s the Professional Footballers Union and every professional footballer, from all four divisions, gets to vote on who they think is the best player playing in England at this time.
“One of the rules is that you can’t vote for anyone at your own club, which means none of us at Liverpool could vote for Mo. For the record, I voted for Kevin De Bruyne, as I believe many of our team did. The fact he came second – after the season he has had – tells you everything about the level that Mo is performing at.
“But Mo isn’t just world-class on the pitch – he is world-class off it – and we as his teammates appreciate him for more than just his goals. The way he behaved around collecting the PFA award sums him up; even in a moment of personal triumph he wanted to acknowledge the importance of the team. Mo is individually magic, but his mindset is all about the collective.
“The gaffer was keen for him to go to London and collect the prize, even though it was in quite close proximity to the Roma first leg. The manager’s priority was that Mo ate the right things, got his sleep and training wasn’t impacted at all. All those things fell into line, so as a team and as a club we wanted him to go. But typically he didn’t want to go on his own, purely because he believes this individual award has come because of the performance of the entire team. Mo recognises that everyone in this squad has played a part in helping him reach this level – and it’s that humility that makes him such a special person, as well as a phenomenal player. He wanted the entire team’s contribution recognised, and as a result we decided together that I would go with him to represent the rest of the team.
“When Mo says, for him, it’s all about what the team can achieve and not him personally, it isn’t just words. When he says he would swap every individual honour he might get for one trophy for the club, he means it. That’s Mo – that’s why he’s special to us. That is why we, as his teammates, were so unbelievably chuffed that the rest of football in England saw fit to name him the best player performing in our country in this moment.
“We didn’t vote for him because we couldn’t under the rules – but the Liverpool dressing room doesn’t need a ballot paper to show our appreciation for this amazing fella.”
Pick up your copy of 'This is Anfield' at the stadium this afternoon, or subscribe online by clicking here.
Mohamed Salah heads into Saturday's clash with Stoke City at Anfield needing just one more goal to become the Premier League's record scorer in a 38-game season.
The newly-crowned PFA Players' Player of the Year has netted 43 times so far in his debut season at Anfield, with 31 of those strikes coming in the top flight.
That Premier League tally puts him level with Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Alan Shearer, meaning a goal versus the Potters would see him break yet more goalscoring ground in a quite remarkable campaign.
For more need-to-know pre-match facts and figures, courtesy of club statistician Ged Rea, read on...
Liverpool have never lost to Stoke at Anfield in the top flight, winning 43 and drawing 11 of the previous 54 games played there.
In the reverse fixture at Stoke in November - a 3-0 win for Liverpool - Salah became the ninth Reds player in history to come off the bench and score more than once in a league game.
The LFC No.11 could also equal yet another club milestone today. The Egyptian has found the net in the last seven league games at Anfield and only two Reds have found the net in eight consecutive home games - Roger Hunt (1961-62) and Fernando Torres (2007-08).
Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have scored 88 goals between them this season. In the last 21 games they have started as a trio they have netted 51 times, with 19 coming in the last six matches.
Liverpool are unbeaten in 17 home league games this season.
The Reds have kept three consecutive clean sheets in home league games. The last time they kept four in succession at Anfield in the same top-flight season was from December 2009 to February 2010.
Liverpool take on Stoke City in Saturday's early Premier League kick-off and there will be a few familiar faces making a return to Anfield.
Four of the Potters' current squad used to play for the Reds and between them boast more than 500 appearances for their former club.
But the quartet are not the only players to make the switch between Liverpool and Stoke down the years.
We've looked through the history books and picked out 10 to have done so...
Despite taking his time to open his account for Liverpool after joining from Southampton in 2005, Crouch became popular with the Anfield faithful immediately.
The talented centre-forward scored a perfect hat-trick - left foot, right foot and header - as the Reds beat Arsenal 4-1 in 2007, and his stunning overhead kick in a 3-2 Champions League win over Galatasaray was voted into UEFA's top 10 all-time goals in European competitions.
After spells with Portsmouth and Tottenham Hotspur, Crouch signed for Stoke in 2011 and is still an important member of the Potters' squad at the age of 37.
After signing for Chelsea in 2012, Moses spent season-long loan spells at both Liverpool and Stoke as he sought to recapture the form that once saw him talked of as one of English football’s big prospects.
Capped by England's youth teams, Moses opted to represent Nigeria at senior level and won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013.
After spending 2015-16 on loan at West Ham United, Moses returned to Chelsea and was converted to a wing-back by Antonio Conte. He played 34 Premier League games as the Blues claimed the 2016-17 title.
Allen followed Brendan Rodgers from Swansea City to Liverpool in 2012 and made 132 appearances across four years at Anfield.
He joined Stoke in the summer of 2016 and remains a vital member of the Potters' team.
Gayle's shining moment for Liverpool came when he ran Bayern Munich's defenders ragged in the second leg of the European Cup semi-final in 1981.
The Scouser would play just five games in total for the Reds, but was on the bench for the European Cup final in Paris as Liverpool went on to beat Real Madrid after overcoming Bayern.
In April 1987, he returned from a spell in the Major Indoor Soccer League with Dallas Sidekicks to join Stoke in Division Two.
Johnson signed for Liverpool from Portsmouth in 2009 and marked his home league debut with a goal and an assist in a Man of the Match performance against Stoke.
The England international’s forward forays remained a trademark of his six seasons at Anfield.
He left to join Stoke in the summer of 2015 and made his Potters debut against the Reds on the opening day of the 2015-16 season.
Diao was signed by Reds manager Gerard Houllier after impressing at the 2002 World Cup with Senegal.
After a successful spell on loan with Stoke, Diao joined the club permanently in 2007 and stayed for five years.
Adam arrived at Anfield in 2011 after starring in Ian Holloway's entertaining Blackpool side following their promotion to the Premier League.
He was part of the Liverpool team that won the 2012 League Cup and joined Stoke later that year. He is still at the bet365 Stadium.
Assaidi arrived at Anfield in 2012 from Dutch club Heerenveen. He made 12 appearances in his debut campaign and then spent one-and-a-half seasons on loan at Mark Hughes' Stoke before being sold to Al-Ahli Dubai in January 2015.
Berger arrived at Anfield following his outstanding displays with the Czech Republic at Euro 96 and his explosive long-range shooting quickly made him a Kop favourite.
He made 196 appearances for the Reds, scoring 35 goals, and provided the assist for Michael Owen's winning goal in the 2001 FA Cup final.
He went on to play for Portsmouth and Aston Villa and spent a brief period on loan at Stoke during the 2006-07 season.
Owen burst on to the scene for Liverpool in 1997, scoring just 16 minutes into his debut. Within a year, he'd had become one of the hottest properties in world football, due to his brilliant goalscoring record and an incredible strike against Argentina at World Cup 1998.
By the time he left Anfield for Real Madrid in 2004, he had scored 158 times in 297 games, won a cup treble and scooped the 2001 Ballon d'Or.
Owen joined Stoke in 2012, in the final move of his career, and made nine appearances for the Potters. His time with the club included the 150th Premier League goal of his career.
Liverpool host Stoke City at Anfield on Saturday seeking a victory that could secure a top-four Premier League finish for Jürgen Klopp's side.
Should the Reds triumph, and fifth-placed Chelsea lose or draw at Swansea City, then a place in next season's Champions League would be assured with two games still to play.
However, Paul Lambert's Potters are fighting for their survival in the top-flight and are desperate for points as they look to climb out of the relegation zone.
Klopp fared favourably against Lambert's predecessor Mark Hughes, who left the club in January, and will be looking to continue the run against the new Stoke boss.
Here's how the Reds have fared in the last six games against the Potters...
Sadio and Salah strike to lift Liverpool
Sadio Mane ended a five-game run without a Premier League goal to open the scoring at the Britannia Stadium with a cheeky dinked finish over onrushing goalkeeper Lee Grant.
The Senegal international, who had scored three times in the opening three matches of the season before a suffering a hamstring injury, also chipped in with an assist for the first goal of Mohamed Salah's brace.
Simon Mignolet had survived a red-card scare following a first-half foul on Mame Biram Diouf before the Egyptian came off the bench late on to wrap things up.
Salah netted his 11th and 12th league strikes of the season to help lift Liverpool up to fifth and move himself clear at the top of Premier League scoring charts.
Samba stars turn the tide
Substitutes Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho scored within two minutes of one another to turn this game around for Liverpool after Jon Walters had put the hosts in front.
Coutinho had defied doctor’s orders to leave his sick bed to take a spot on the bench.
It was only the ninth time in Reds history two substitutes had found the net for the club in the same league game.
At the other end, Simon Mignolet thwarted both Charlie Adam and Saido Berahino with stunning saves as Jürgen Klopp's side remained on course for a top-four finish.
Quick-fire Sturridge keeps Reds rolling
Daniel Sturridge scored just 56 seconds after coming off the bench to net his first league goal of the season in this 4-1 win at Anfield.
The Liverpool striker pounced on Ryan Shawcross' poor back pass before rounding goalkeeper Lee Grant and slotting home to register the Reds' 100th league strike in just 48 games under Klopp.
Adam Lallana had earlier netted from a tight angle and Roberto Firmino scored off the inside of both posts as the second-placed Reds closed the gap to Premier League leaders Chelsea to six points.
Origi double helps sink Stoke
With a Europa League quarter-final, second leg against Borussia Dortmund looming just a few days later, Jürgen Klopp made seven changes to his team for this clash with Stoke and handed Kevin Stewart and Sheyi Ojo their full league debuts.
But it was substitute Divock Origi who wrote his name in the post-match headlines after netting his first Premier League brace - scoring in back-to-back games for Liverpool for the first time.
It was also the first time the Reds had scored four goals in a game at home under Klopp.
Mignolet saves the day for the Reds
Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was Liverpool's hero in this League Cup semi-final, making saves from Peter Crouch and Marc Muniesa in the penalty shootout as the Reds booked a trip to Wembley.
Future Stoke midfielder Joe Allen netted the crucial spot-kick as Liverpool won 6-5 to notch their 14th penalty shootout triumph of 17 contested in the club's history.
Marko Arnautovic had scored for the Potters in first-half stoppage time to cancel out the Reds' 1-0 advantage from the first leg.
Ibe the matchwinner in the Potteries
Despite losing Philippe Coutinho and Dejan Lovren to hamstring injuries before half-time of this League Cup semi-final, first leg Liverpool dug in and earned victory when substitute Jordon Ibe converted at the far post.
It was Ibe's third goal of the season, with all three coming in cup competitions.
With Lucas Leiva having to play as a makeshift centre-back in place of Lovren, and Kolo Toure limping heavily during the final stages of the game, Klopp was left lamenting the fact he had "zero centre-halves left" heading into league games against Manchester United and Arsenal.