Adam Lallana vs Ryan Shawcross
Does Lallana have the quality to pick apart Stoke's well drilled defence?
Without Luis Suarez's tireless energy and jinking runs, Liverpool have struggled to create space in the final third, despite their increase in possession (57.4%, up from 55.8% last season) and assured distribution in midfield (Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson average 116.8 passes per game between them, similar to their 117.3 last season).
Taking corresponding fixtures from this season and last, we can see that Gerrard's influence – spreading the play and distributing to his attackers – has not changed.
Comparing the same two matches, we can see the difference in movement (not to mention accuracy of passing/shooting) between Luis Suarez and Mario Balotelli.
Unfortunately for under-pressure Brendan Rodgers, unlocking this weekend's opposition will be as difficult a task as any. When playing away from home, Stoke have consistently sat deep, absorbing pressure and narrowing the pitch.
This tactic has been ruthlessly deployed against stronger, possession-dominant opposition; in their hard-fought wins over Spurs and Manchester City, they enjoyed just 41.9% and 28% possession respectively.
Club captain Ryan Shawcross is the key man behind this success, averaging 7.8 clearances and 4.4 successful aerial duels per match, more than any other Stoke defender.
The superb Shawcross led his team to a phenomenal clean sheet at the Etihad in September. Note the deep position of Stoke's defending.
When Stoke shut off space by sitting deep with narrow banks of four (or five), it is considerably difficult for the quick, dribbling specialists to make an impact; in Stoke's two previous away wins, Spurs' Andros Townsend and Manchester City's Samir Nasri made very little impact (0 dribbles each).
Needing a craftier player to prise Stoke open, it is not Raheem Sterling – usually tasked with filling the creative void left by the crumbling of SAS – who will be the key man, but Adam Lallana.
Against Crystal Palace, it was Lallana's neat through-ball that led to the opening goal, in a rare glimpse of the ability we saw at Southampton last season.
Despite enduring a difficult start to his Liverpool career, earning a first assist of the season should give him a confidence boost. The Reds will be hoping he can pick the lock at Anfield on Saturday.
Against Palace, Lallana showed glimpses of what he's capable of but little compared with some of his performances for Southampton last season.
Arsenal's attack vs Arsenal's defence
Can Arsenal find the correct balance, or will they concede on the counter yet again?
After Arsenal squandered numerous chances in a game they dominated for long periods, Arsene Wenger must have been furious to see the positional naivety that led to Wayne Rooney's counter-attack goal.
If they repeat the offence, the Gunners can expect Saido Berahino to punish them in similar fashion.
Finding a balance between their attacking instincts and defensive duties has frequently eluded Arsenal in recent seasons, as their possessional dominance (59%, a league best) and high defensive line leave them vulnerable to incisive breakaways.
Arsenal have lost their last two matches after over-committing men forward and conceding on the counter.
Considering Alan Irvine's propensity for rigid structure and a deep defensive line, it's quite possible that Arsenal will, once again, leave themselves light at the back while searching for the breakthrough.
The excellent Chris Brunt (4 assists, 1.3 key passes per game) and Berahino, who has already scored twice this season from counter-attacks, will be ready to pounce on any mistakes.
The longer West Brom keep the score at 0-0, the more vulnerable to the counter Arsenal will become.
Playing on the shoulder of the last defender, Berahino is the perfect counter-attacking striker, collecting the ball in dangerous positions and finishing ruthlessly.
Read on for a big 'un at St Mary's, and an Englishman vs an Argentine...