Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel thinks the Boxing Day battle with Stoke will be more about “the fight and the tackles” than the quality of football, but says his team are ready for a bruising encounter.
Only goal difference separates the sides in the league with both teams on 25 points, ahead of the game at the Britannia Stadium, and Skrtel has called on his team-mates to keep their cool and play to their creative strengths.
“The game against Stoke is not about the football, it is about the fight and the tackles,” the Slovakia international told reporters.
“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.”
Skrtel says victory for the Reds is crucial as his side look towards the Champions League qualification places after a poor start under new boss Brendan Rodgers.
“It is always difficult to play against [Stoke], especially away from home but we know if we play our game it can be good,” he added.
“We will just try to beat them and get the three points because that is very important for us.
“I hope and believe we can score goals and win there. With three games in a few days that will be key.”
Captain Steven Gerrard also thinks the Stoke game could be important with the table as tight as it currently is, with just seven points separating 12th and fourth place.
“If you can string two or three wins together you can make real progress up the table. Vice versa, if we don’t build on the result against Fulham we could slip back down into mid-table,” he told the Liverpool Echo.
“The games come thick and fast at this time of year and we need to get some momentum over the festive period. [The 3-1 defeat against] Villa was a missed opportunity but we’ve got ourselves back on track against Fulham.
“Stoke, QPR and then Sunderland – on paper these are fixtures we should be getting points from. But it won’t just happen for us. We have to put the hard work in and earn the right.”