Liverpool can move back to the top of the Premier League table – at least before Chelsea play later in the day – when they host struggling Sunderland at Anfield on Saturday afternoon (3pm).
Jurgen Klopp’s charges were held to a goalless draw away to Southampton last time out, which brought to an end their run of three consecutive victories in the top flight. The Reds turned in another excellent performance at St Marys and were unlucky not to take all three points back with them to Merseyside, with Saints limited to very few scoring opportunities and Liverpool creating plenty of their own.
The visitors’ failure to emerge victorious saw them drop down to second spot in the table after Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat of Middlesbrough, but Klopp will still be delighted with his side’s position as the campaign enters its second third. Liverpool certainly seem to be ahead of schedule in their progression under the former Borussia Dortmund manager, who will be aiming to make it 30 points from a possible 39 at Anfield.
Sunderland made it two wins from two last weekend, dispatching Hull City 3-0 with a minimum of fuss in front of their own supporters at the Stadium of Light. It was another vital victory after their 2-1 triumph over Bournemouth prior to the international break, with the Black Cats now off the foot of the standings and up to 19th place after the first 12 matches of the campaign. There are now signs of life on Wearside after a dismal start to David Moyes’ tenure. The Scot’s side amassed just two points from the first 30 on offer and while there is still a long way to go in their race to avoid relegation to the Championship, Sunderland are now moving in the right direction.
Liverpool will be unable to call upon the services of Adam Lallana (groin), Danny Ings (knee) and Sheyi Ojo (back), while youngster Joe Gomez is lacking in match fitness after a long-term lay-off. Klopp will probably stick with the same starting XI that began the 0-0 draw with Southampton, with Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho in the front three and Emre Can, Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson forming the midfield trio in behind. Daniel Sturridge, who has started only four times in the Premier League this term, is likely to have to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench once more.
Sunderland have to make do without Papy Djilobodji (suspension), Lee Cattermole (hip), Jack Rodwell (hamstring) and Fabio Borini (groin), but Jan Kirchhoff could return after missing the defeat of Hull with a hamstring complaint. Victor Anichebe was been extremely impressive in recent weeks, scoring three vital goals against the Tigers and Bournemouth, and should keep his place on the right-hand side of a narrow front three, with Jermain Defoe through the middle and Duncan Watmore on the left. At the back, former Manchester United man John O’Shea is likely to replace Djilobodji at centre-half.
It is difficult to envisage anything other than a comfortable Liverpool triumph on Saturday afternoon. The Reds will probably have too much attacking quality for their opponents, who may have improved in recent weeks but remain a side very much in trouble at the wrong end of the table. With that in mind, a home victory in a game featuring over 3.5 goals in total could be the result. James Milner (pictured) – the man who takes penalties for the Reds – can be an anytime scorer.