Preston North End or PNE have lost just twice in their last nine games and sit seventh in the Championship standings, just goal difference shy of the play-off places. They could only manage a draw against Barnsley last weekend, but the 1-1 result may have given Alan Irvine’s men a curious sense of confidence: that of being on level terms with a team who downed Liverpool (and Chelsea, for that matter).
Defensive duo Liam Chilvers and Neal Trotman remain unavailable through injury, as does goalkeeper Wayne Henderson. On-loan Ross Wallace is expected to feature, however, after receiving clearance from his owners, Sunderland.
Meanwhile, Neil Mellor is a chance to line up against his former club. The striker, best known for his contribution to the Reds’ successful 2005 Champions League campaign, will tussle with Jon Parkin, Chris Brown and Stephen Elliott for a starting spot.
The big news is that Stevie G is expected to play, just days after being charged with assault and affray for brawling at a Southport nightclub. Captain Fantastic was not only in electric form on his last outing, but the spotlight is well and truly fixed on him after his late-night fight at the Lounge Inn. The England man will be desperate to get the press and the public focusing on his football once more, so Preston’s midfield could be in for a bit of a battering.
Equally exciting is the possibility of Fernando Torres’ return to action after a month out with a hamstring problem – the Spaniard should be named on the bench.
Some of Anfield’s young guns will get a run-out, with the likes of Damien Plessis, Lucas Leiva, David N’Gog and Nabil El Zhar all in contention to start. Robbie Keane, left out altogether against Newcastle, may also feature from the get-go.
Alvaro Arbeloa (hamstring) and Fabio Aurelio (calf) return to the squad after injury, while Martin Skrtel could make his first start in defence since suffering knee-ligament damage in October.