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Five things learned about Liverpool in 1-0 win over Stoke City

Liverpool take a slender lead to Anfield in their League Cup semi-final after a 1-0 win over Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium in the first leg.

Liverpool took command of their League Cup semi-final tie against Stoke City thanks to a 1-0 win at the Britannia Stadium.

Jordon Ibe's strike was enough to give Liverpool a slender lead going into the second leg at Anfield in just under three weeks' time but it came at a cost as the Reds' injury crisis worsened during a very hectic fixture schedule.

Philippe Coutinho and Dejan Lovren both hobbled off before the interval with hamstring injuries, while Kolo Toure appeared to cramp up towards the end of the game.

The Reds without Mamadou Sakho due to a knee injury, while manager Jurgen Klopp made changes to the midfield and the front line, with Christian Benteke dropped to the bench.

Despite the injuries, the Reds had a clear game plan which they executed well, and have put themselves in a good position to reach their first major cup final in four seasons.

Liverpool's remaining players need wrapping up in cotton wool against Exeter:

Without disrespecting the FA Cup, Liverpool should be handing out a bunch of first team debuts in order to protect their squad for the huge clashes in the Premier League and second leg of this tie ahead. There are simply far too many injuries for Liverpool to risk most of their available front line players, and Klopp may find a couple of solutions by looking at one or two of the younger players knocking around.

They can battle, but need to show it regularly:

After going a goal up, Liverpool just battled, battled, and battled again. There were very few backward steps in challenges, they unsettled Stoke and didn't allow them to flow. Comparing this display to the one against West Ham United three days earlier is like comparing night and day. 

'False nine' only works against certain sides:

It was a return to the 'false nine' for Klopp and the Reds with Roberto Firmino preferred to spearhead the attack ahead of Christian Benteke. This has been used twice before in a win against Manchester City and in the defeat to Watford in the Premier League on the road. It certainly gave Stoke problems as they are a side with defenders who relish the physical battle, so Liverpool gave them a game on the floor. However, Liverpool are going to have to pick and choose their games to deploy this plan.

There are leaders in this side after all:

It's little surprise that the leadership came from the more experienced individuals from within the Liverpool squad in Lucas Leiva, Kolo Toure and James Milner - though Dejan Lovren did his bit before injury struck. There was plenty of talking, wise decision making and a few last ditch challenges as well.

Liverpool's need for players in January has risen:

Some will have said they needed a striker anyway given that their only fit recognised forward was consigned to the bench but with injury hitting the heart of the defence, there is a need to bring in at least one new centre-back during this transfer window - something which Klopp seemed to acknowledge after the game in his press conference. The Liverpool manager may have been reluctant to do business this winter as he wants to give all of his players an opportunity, now it doesn't look like he will have a choice. 

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