Ex-Stoke defender Danny Higginbotham expresses concern about Liverpool's Christian Benteke

Ryan Shawcross is ruled out of Stoke's clash with Liverpool on Sunday, while Christian Benteke could make his first competitive appearance for the Reds.

Former Stoke City defender Danny Higginbotham has, in the Sentinel, expressed concern at how the Potters will cope with Liverpool's new frontman Christian Benteke on Sunday. 

Benteke hasn't had much pre-season action with the Reds, but managed to find the net with a stunning strike in his only summer outing against Swindon Town, and with the Potters without their most influential defender in Ryan Shawcross, Higginbotham is a little worried about the outcome of Sunday's Premier League opener at the Britannia Stadium.

He told the Stoke Sentinel: "He gives Brendan Rodgers something he didn't have in attack last season, a focal point, and that now gives Liverpool a whole new dynamic.

"Players like Philipp Coutinho will be his shadow in terms of getting in and around him once he wins possession in what could be a `second-ball' game in many respects.

"That's certainly one of the ways Liverpool will go on Sunday and it worries me that Stoke will lack some physicality at the back without RyanShawcross and without a like-for-like replacement."

Certainly there is more of physical presence up front for Liverpool ahead of this game compared to when the two sides last met, and given that Shawcross has come out on top on several occasions against what the Reds have had to offer at the Britannia Stadium in years gone by, the visitors will probably fancy their chances a great deal more given the team news ahead of this weekend's meeting. 

One would think that Rodgers would start with the Belgian in order to give his side that presence, and allow his midfielders and wide players to feed off what he gives them, as well as stretching the Potters' back line with his pace. 

You could argue it's something of a perfect storm for Liverpool to avenge the 6-1 hammering that was dished out to them by Stoke at the end of last season, but no-one should underestimate Mark Hughes' side. It looks as though Sunday's meeting will be a fascinating encounter if nothing else. 

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