Sunderland host Liverpool in what will be an intriguing clash for one old boy Simon Mignolet, who returns to the ground where he made his name as a Sunderland player but another story will surely steal the headlines, that of Steven Gerrard probably playing for the last time at the Stadium of Light as he announced that he will be leaving Liverpool at the end of the season to join the L.A. Galaxy in the MLS.
Sunderland are the draw kings of the Premier League and the first meeting between the sides also ended as a draw. Sunderland have lost 2 out of their last 3 games and will be looking to get a win under their belts to avoid dropping into the relegation zone. Liverpool will be looking to continue their unbeaten run but need 3 points to get close to the Champions League positions.
The good news for Sunderland ahead of this game is that they almost have a full team to choose from, the only doubt is from Lee Cattermole as he is still recovering from a groin injury he picked up which has kept him out from the last 2 games.
Liverpool have a lot of problems ahead of this game, Daniel Sturridge has returned to Merseyside but probably cannot play in this game as he continues his rehabilitation from a long standing injury. Adam Lallana, who impressed a few weeks back, is going to miss out along with Joe Allen, Brad Jones, Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan.
Kolo Toure will also be missed by the away team since he is on duty at the African cup of nations with the Ivory Coast.
Connor Wickham vs. Martin Skrtel
Connor Wickham seems to have got his form back and has looked like the player who did so well towards the end of last season. Wickham will be going up against one of the toughest defenders in the league with Martin Skrtel waiting to keep a shutout against the Black cats.
Jack Rodwell vs. Jordan Henderson
A battle of two hardworking midfielders, both seem to have lost a bit of touch from last season. Jack Rodwell really hasn’t kicked on since his Everton days and has joined Sunderland from Manchester City in hope of reviving his career while Jordan Henderson might have been named as a future Liverpool captain but he really needs to pick up his game if he is to keep his position in the team.
Wes Brown vs. Raheem Sterling
The key to keeping Liverpool quiet is to ensure that Raheem Sterling has a quiet game and that is the job in hand for Wes Brown. The former Manchester United defender will be using all his experience to keep the 20 year old from causing any damage against Sunderland.
Sunderland have scored a higher proportion of their goals in the last 15 minutes of games than any other team in the league with 33% of their goals coming in the last 15 minutes.
7 out of the last 11 goals scored by Liverpool against Sunderland was by the player, Luis Suarez.
Costel Pantilimon has the best shots to saves ratio in the Premier League.
Sunderland have picked up the most number of yellow cards in the league with 52 this season.
Liverpool have won 5 out of their last 8 visits at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland winger Adam Johnson: “It will be a very tough game. They did really well last season and they haven’t quite found that form during the current campaign, but they still have quality players and a quality squad. We’re really looking forward to the game and they haven’t quite been at the top of their game, so hopefully we can catch them a little bit off and try to get a win.”
Brendan Rodgers on Liverpool’s approach: “They’re very difficult to break down. They get a lot of numbers behind the ball. They close the space up and you have to work really hard and well to try to find the gaps to get in. It will be slightly different at home. They will be the home team and they will want to go on the offensive a little bit more.
Sunderland Starting XI: Pantilimon, Vergini, Jones, Brown, O’Shea, Larsson, Gomez, Johnson, Rodwell, Wickham, Altidore
Liverpool Starting XI: Mignolet, Can, Lovren, Skrtel, Henderson, Gerrard, Lucas, Moreno, Sterling, Coutinho, Balotelli
Last season no one would have doubted the winner from this game but this season is another story for Liverpool and Sunderland would probably get all 3 points from this tie.
Quotes courtesy: Pro Soccer Talk
Picture Courtesy: SkySports, Ronneh WordPress & The Express
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