Stoke are tough to beat but play within the rules, says Dalglish
15:51 GMT, 16 March 2012
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is well aware of the strengths of Stoke as he prepares for a fourth meeting against them this season but he is not among their critics.
The Potters' style has failed to impress the likes of Arsenal's Arsene Wenger and former Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas, among others.
However, Dalglish has no problem with the way Tony Pulis sets up his side and believes it is all part of the challenge of a top-flight manager.
Going through the paces: Steven Gerrard, Andy Carroll and Jon Flanagan prepare for the Stoke game
Dalglish has tried a number of variations in order to combat Stoke, switching tactics completely for a single game and bringing in a third central defender, as he did for the goalless draw at Anfield in January.
This season Liverpool have lost at the Britannia Stadium in the Barclays Premier League but also knocked Stoke out of the Carling Cup at the same ground.
But Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final encounter gives them a chance to rectify the frustrating result in front of their own fans two months ago.
'We know it's going to be difficult, we know they're going to be very well organised and we know they're going to be a threat at set-plays,' he said.
Keeping an eye on things: Kenny Dalglish watches his players during training at Melwood
'In some quarters Tony Pulis' team are criticised for the way they play but they won't get any criticism from us.
'They play the way that's best suited to them, they play within the rules and they're a credit to that football club.
'What they've done has been fantastic. They've had a fantastic season.
'They got to the final of the FA Cup last year, they qualified for the Europa League and have had a fantastic run in that before being put out by Valencia.
'They played very well and were unfortunate to get knocked out.'
At stake is a place in a Wembley semi-final but with both teams having visited the national stadium in the last 10 months Dalglish does not believe Stoke will have any less incentive than his own side, who won the Carling Cup there last month.
Tough battle: Andy Carroll and Robert Huth fight for the ball in one of the games earlier this season
The Potters were runners-up to Manchester City in the competition last year, having dispatched Bolton 5-0 in their last-four encounter.
'Stoke have been to Wembley too, they've tasted it before and they know what the rewards are and how much they enjoyed it, although they lost the final,' Dalglish added.
'We've been to Wembley as well, we enjoyed it and we want to go back.
'But every one of the eight teams have the same incentive – to get to Wembley.
'Whether you've been before and want to go back or you've never been and have got the hunger to get there, it doesn't make any difference.'
A weight of statistics appear to be on Liverpool's side as in six FA Cup meetings, which includes two replays, Stoke have never won or even scored.
The Potters have also not won at Anfield since 1959, a run of 32 matches.
And in contrast to Liverpool's league form, which has seen them struggle for goals, in their three FA Cup ties – two against lower league opposition – this season they have scored 13 times.
Cup joy: Luis Suarez celebrates scoring against Stoke in the Carling Cup
With Champions League qualification a distant prospect as they trail fourth-placed Arsenal by 10 points a cup double looks Liverpool's best chance of success this season.
And while that may have not been the primary target at the start of the season forward Dirk Kuyt believes the club is continuing to move forward.
'We've made a great spell of progress,” the Holland international told liverpoolfc.tv.
'It's never easy when a lot of new players are coming into the club. You have to fit them into the team.
'But we have a quality group of players. Not only 11 players but a great squad.
Total respect: Kenny Dalglish has no issues with how Tony Pulis' side play the game
'We beat United, we beat Arsenal, we have beaten Everton twice, but it's true that we dropped too many points in other games and that's what we're trying to change.
'The only thing that we can say to the supporters is that we work every day, really hard in training and we try to win every game possible.
'I'm sure we will be okay in the future; we have just got to keep going like this.
'Sometimes we've been a little bit unlucky. People are talking lots about us hitting the post (21 times) but that's behind us now – you have to look forward.'