Mohamed Salah misfires for Liverpool as injuries limit options for Jurgen Klopp
LIVERPOOL, England -- Three points on Liverpool's dour, goalless draw at home to relegation-threatened Stoke City.
1. Liverpool running out of midfield options
For a team 90 minutes away from a Champions League final, back-to-back draws with teams staring down the barrel of Premier League relegation isn't the best of looks. Liverpool's goalless draw with Stoke, following on from the 2-2 draw at rock-bottom West Brom last weekend, means that Champions League qualification for next season is still not secure.
Although three points was the ultimate desire, a clean bill of health from this game is Liverpool's next best result. It was a squad not blessed with an abundance of depth at the start of the campaign. But injuries leave coach Jurgen Klopp with slim pickings ahead of Wednesday's Champions League second leg in Rome. Sadio Mane missed the Stoke game outright, with hope he can return in midweek.
Liverpool are particularly down to the bare bones when it comes to picking a three-man midfield. Klopp made five alterations that hinted at a possible formation change, with three central defenders on the pitch.
Instead, it was the usual 4-3-3 as Joe Gomez played at right-back and Trent Alexander-Arnold moved into central-midfield, a position he played for Liverpool's youth sides, on paper at least.
The staff at Liverpool's academy keep an open mind as to the position their youngsters play. It means Alexander-Arnold has played virtually everywhere on the pitch during his football upbringing.
That versatility was needed on Saturday. The 19-year-old's outing in the middle of the park was a necessity due to injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana and Emre Can -- all of whom could miss the rest of the season.
There was a sharp intake of breath around Anfield whenever a Liverpool player went down with an injury. The stadium fell silent when Jordan Henderson went down clutching his ankle in the first half. Much to the relief of everyone, he recovered and completed the rest of the game.
The crowd is very aware that an injury to either Henderson, Milner or Wijnaldum means potential call-ups to the midfield for Alexander-Arnold, Ben Woodburn and even 17-year-old Curtis Jones.
It is hardly an ideal situation for a Liverpool team with things to play for -- both domestically and in Europe -- right until the end of the season.
2. Salah misfires for once
The mind-blowing statistic that Salah has scored in every game he's started at Anfield since Boxing Day is over. The Egyptian was frustrated and roughened up against Stoke.
The forward did have opportunities to become the outright highest-ever scorer in a 38-game Premier League season. He will now have to wait until Chelsea next weekend for another shot at the honour.
Klopp is taking a risk by continuing to play him in every game, but the player's desire to claim individual accolades is understandable.
Salah had a chance inside six minutes to break the record. He ran clean through on goal and lifted the ball over Jack Butland. Anfield celebrated what they thought was a goal to put them up 1-0. But supporters only realised Salah had fired wide when Butland restarted play with a goal kick.
Later, the crowd thought Salah had scored again when he hit a free kick that found the outside of the net. Danny Ings also got in on the act when he only noticed the linesman's flag had been raised for offside when deep in celebration.
The frustration was beginning to build in the second half. Klopp finally snapped at the crowd shortly after the hour mark at their moans and groans whenever Liverpool committed an error. But the players were unable to lift themselves to claim the three points.
Salah, amazingly, has now missed 21 clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities in the Premier League this season -- more than any other player. But then he has scored more than anyone else, too.
The whole Liverpool team were incensed when the officials ignored their appeals for a penalty when the ball appeared to strike Erik Pieters' hand late on.
Liverpool and Salah have had plenty of vintage displays here at Anfield this season. This was not one of them.
3. Lambert hoodoo continues
With Stoke almost certainly needing a win, they could not look at statistics and the history books for peace of mind ahead of Saturday's game. Playing on their travels this season, the Potters have won just once, claiming a total of nine points. While even more unfavourably, Liverpool had never lost in the previous 54 top-flight home games against them.
But in their manager, Paul Lambert, Stoke had hope of causing an upset. Lambert is seen as a bogey manager in this parts. He now boasts a record of three wins and three draws at Anfield when managing Norwich, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers and now Stoke. He also won at Anfield as a player with Celtic in the UEFA Cup in 2003.
Last January, Wolves knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup at the fourth-round stage. Lambert, a Champions League winner as a player with Borussia Dortmund, used his German connections to figure out the best way to play against Klopp's side that day.
On Saturday, Stoke rode their luck at times but had chances themselves at the other end, particularly on the counter with the hold-up play from former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch.
A point does not do much to boost their hopes of Premier League survival. They await Swansea's City result against Chelsea to see whether their task goes from an unlikely one to near impossible. The one hope is that they do still have to play the Swans on the final day of the season.
Lambert hasn't tasted victory with Stoke since his first game in charge back in January, but in terms of frustrating and denying Liverpool, he has done it again. Liverpool will not miss the Scot should Stoke go down.
Glenn is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.