Kick–off: 20:00 (BST)
Title contenders Liverpool will welcome relegation battlers Sunderland to Anfield on Wednesday night, in a match of paramount importance for both sides.
Liverpool are enjoying a dream season and on current form certainly look like favourites for the title. Currently on a six match winning streak in the Premier League, the Reds have been a joy to watch and up against a struggling Sunderland side next, Brendan Rodgers will be expecting his side to continue their great run of form.
However, matches against the Premier League basement clubs are never as easy as it may seem and the Black Cats will certainly make life difficult for Liverpool, if the Reds allow complacency to creep into their game.
After a dream run to the final of the Capital One Cup, the wheels seem to have fallen off of Sunderland’s season and the Black Cats find themselves in an alarming free fall. Gus Poyet’s side shot themselves on the foot against Norwich City in the weekend and if they put in a similar display against a quality side like Liverpool, then the Black Cats may find themselves at the end of a hiding.
That being said, a good result against Liverpool could act as a springboard for Sunderland to gather some momentum and move away from the relegation places as soon as possible.
Brendan Rodgers will have a full strength side to choose from with the exception of Jose Enrique, for the visit of Sunderland.
Despite the attacking department earning a lot of plaudits, the Reds’ defence has been less than convincing lately and Rodgers may ponder making some changes to his backline. Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel should retain their place in the starting lineup but Daniel Agger could lose his place to Mamadou Sakho while Aly Cissokho is also in contention start ahead of Jon Flanagan.
Joe Allen has been impressive in the last couple of weeks in a diamond formation alongside Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson and the trio look set to start at the middle of the park, with either Raheem Sterling or Philippe Coutinho deployed in the playmaker’s role. The likes of Lucas, Iago Aspas and Victor Moses will also be pushing for starts as well.
The magnificent duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge will undoubtedly be leading the line for Liverpool and will look to continue their scintillating form in front of goal.
Gus Poyet will have couple of his key players unavailable for the clash as Steven Fletcher and Kieran Westwood are ruled out with injuries, Marcos Alonso is suspended and Fabio Borini is ineligible to feature against his parent club.
Vito Mannone will start in goal for the Black Cats and the Italian will be shielded by a back four consisting of Phil Bardsley, John O’Shea, Wes Brown and most probably Ondrej Celustka filling-in for Alonso at left-back. The likes of Santiago Vergini, Carlos Cuellar and former Liverpool boy Andrea Dossena will also be in contention.
The duo of Ki Sung-Yeung and Jack Colback were very ineffectual against Norwich and could make way for Sebastian Larsson and Lee Cattermole, with Liam Bridcutt will probably starting as the holding midfielder. Adam Johnson should continue on the right wing while Emmanuelle Giaccherini looks the most likely candidate to replace Borini on the left.
American international Jozy Altidore looks set to lead the line for the Black Cats and he will certainly be hoping to end his goal drought against the shaky Liverpool defence.
Liverpool (Probable XI): Mignolet; Flanagan, Skrtel, Sakho, Johnson; Sturridge, Henderson, Gerrard, Allen, Coutinho; Suarez
Sunderland (Probable XI): Mannone; Dossena, Brown, O’Shea, Bardsley; Giaccherini, Larsson, Bridcutt, Ki, Johnson; Altidore
Liverpool: L W W W W
Sunderland: L L L D L
29/09/2013 Sunderland 1 – 3 Liverpool
03/01/2013 Liverpool 3 – 0 Sunderland
Liverpool certainly head into the game as overwhelming favourites for the clash. The Reds arguably look the best team in the land at the moment and given their attacking prowess, many teams do not look like they stand a prayer against Brendan Rodgers’ side, not least a struggling Sunderland side.
However, Gus Poyet’s side are built on a principle of hard work and have cause a few upsets this season. Sunderland do posses some quality players in their ranks who have plenty of experience in the likes of John O’Shea, Adam Johnson and Wes Brown.
While stopping Sturridge and Suarez seems an impossible task at the moment, O’Shea and Brown are capable to minimize the duo’s effect while set pieces could prove to be a source of goal for the Black Cats against a less than convincing Reds’ defence.
Sunderland do not have a good record against Liverpool and it is difficult to see it changing come Wednesday night. Liverpool should romp their way to a comfortable victory.
Liverpool 3 – 1 Sunderland
TV Info: NBC Sports Network (USA), and Sky Sports 1 HD (UK).