Even against a team floundering as hard as Sunderland, I’m still not confident enough to get cocky. Liverpool may be coming off a morale boosting win over surprise package Leicester City, but it’s too soon to forget what happened the last time we ventured up this way with a shock 2-0 loss to a similarly wretched Newcastle United bursting our bubble mere days after we trounced Southampton in the League Cup.
Still unsteady in the final third and with plenty of injuries to worry about, I doubt anyone at Anfield is chalking up the three-points quite yet — least of all Reds boss Jurgen Klopp.
“We have our moments when we are shooting and we have a little bit of bad luck; for example the situations once or twice with Adam [Lallana] where he was a little bit unlucky when he went really close and could have scored a goal [against Leicester],” said the German in his pre-match press call, explaining that they’re focused on finding a solution to their woes in front of the net. “That’s what we are trying to do. We know about this [need to score more goals], it’s the truth, and to be more dangerous from more positions is a big target for us.”
Despite declaring himself fit to play, Klopp has said he’ll resist the temptation to recall Daniel Sturridge early from his “mini pre-season” as the 26-year old looks to get his fitness back on par. Even with Divock Origi, who picked up a hamstring injury in the narrow win over the Foxes, sidelined, Sturridge is set to remain on the training ground until his manager sees fit. That, of course, will heap added pressure on Christian Benteke, who has been overlooked in recent weeks in favour of his younger compatriot or attacker Roberto Firmino, to start delivering the goods.
The big Belgian has thus far failed to live up to his price-tag since a mega-bucks move from Aston Villa during the summer, but having played a completely different brand of football in the Midlands, the jury is still out as to whether he’ll be able to adapt to Klopp’s all-action style. To be fair, he’s not the only one who has been underwhelming with the aforementioned Firmino only finding the net once since his own move from Bundesliga club Hoffenheim and Lallana still without a goal in the Premier League this season.
With that being said, if you’re looking to get your game going, there’s few better places to start than the Stadium of Light with Sam Allardyce’s men looking nothing short of dysfunctional at the back. Ex-Reds striker Fabio Borini may have found the net against both Chelsea and Manchester City, but his solitary strikes were mere consolations as the Black Cats conceded seven goals over the two matches. If only to add to Allardyce’s defensive concerns, he may be forced to call on Wes Brown, who has played only once this season, to fill in against the Anfield outfit with both Younes Kaboul and John O’Shea sidelined through injury.
“We have Wes, but obviously he hasn’t played much football at all this season so that would be a bit of a concern. But that will be the case if John (O’Shea) doesn’t make it on Wednesday,” said the Black Cats boss. “I think we would have to play a different way (if Brown starts). We’d have to play a certain system to use his experience and also give him a little bit of protection, because we know now that Wes is getting a little bit older and he’s not quite as quick as he used to be,” he conceded. “We have to protect that area but also get him to use his experience to play against a Liverpool side that are probably going to come and try to press us high up.”
Which, in turn, means that Sunderland will likely look to concede possession and hit on the break — a tactic that has worked well against Liverpool in the past couple of weeks, but it was one that Leicester couldn’t quite get right despite the fact that’s their usual game-plan and not just one they cooked up to counteract the Reds “gegenpress”. Unbeaten in their last six matches against the Black Cats, Klopp will look to make that seven, but if they want to keep climbing the table, nothing but a win will is going to do them much good.
If Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren can contain the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, they should be able to keep Borini and Steven Fletcher from being too much of a bother. As long as we keep things tight at the back and the combination of ex-Sunderland man Jordan Henderson and Emre Can, who were both excellent against the Foxes, can keep Sebastian Coates and Yann M’Vila occupied, this trip to the Stadium of Light should be a good one — should, of course, being the operative word. It really depends on which Liverpool team makes the journey; hopefully it’s the one that battered Southampton and not the one that couldn’t string two passes together against Watford.