Premier League | Anfield | Wed 26 Mar | 8pm
Goal-hungry title outsiders versus goal-shy strugglers.
Six months might be a long time in football, but some things never change.
- Cardiff 3-6 Liverpool (Prem)
- Man Utd 0-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- So'ton 0-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-3 Swansea (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool (FAC)
- Norwich 2-0 S'land (Prem)
- S'land 0-0 Palace (Prem)
- Hull 3-0 S'land (FAC)
- Man City 3-1 S'land (LC)
- Arsenal 4-1 S'land (Prem)
Sunderland were ‘between managers’ when Liverpool won 3-1 at the Stadium of Light at the end of September, a scoreline that flattered the visitors. But you get no points for efforts on goal and Luis Suarez – making his first league appearance after suspension – scored the first two of 28 Premier League goals and counting this season. That's two more than Sunderland have managed and they didn’t have the first six weeks off, although given they didn’t register a league victory until October 27, that’s debatable.
Before the desperate defeat to Norwich, Gus Poyet bemoaned not getting the results Sunderland’s recent displays deserved. Different manager, same old story. But the table doesn’t lie. Which is another blow for Sunderland, because it will tell them that Liverpool are genuine title contenders at this stage of the season, so motivation won’t be a problem for their hosts. Neither will goals, the league’s top scorers bagging 24 in winning their last six games.
Poyet’s men, on the other hand, have just one point and a single goal to show for their last four outings, and arrive at Anfield with few fit strikers and even fewer in form.
They might take heart from the fact that Liverpool’s suspect defence leaked three goals in their last home game, against Swansea, and three more at the weekend. On current form, Sunderland will need at least that many. 8/1 for an away win looks generous odds.
With Steven Fletcher sidelined and Fabio Borini unable to play against his parent club, Sunderland have been forced to recall Connor Wickham from his loan spell at Leeds, even though he failed to find the net in five games at Elland Road. By taking off his two central midfielders after just 40 minutes at Carrow Road, Poyet proved he’s willing to tinker boldly with his squad, but options are limited.
To make matters worse for Sunderland, Liverpool’s only absentee is long-term crock Jose Enrique, with Brendan Rodgers able to tweak personnel and tactics according to the opposition rather his injury list.
Key battle: Luis Suarez vs Wes Brown
Six teams have a worse defensive record than Sunderland and they’re the joint-second lowest scorers, so it’s no secret where their problems lie, but rearguard efforts don’t come much tougher than at Anfield. As you can see from the graphic of Liverpool’s last home game, Suarez rarely ventures back into his own half, but his movement in opposition territory knows no limits. He’ll pull wide, dribble at will and shoot on sight.
Brown, though, tends to hold his position as Sunderland’s left-sided centre-back, as seen in the Black Cats’ last away win at Newcastle. This suggests Poyet will look to contain his fellow Uruguayan collectively, rather than making Brown follow him everywhere, perhaps forcing Suarez back into a flooded midfield where Lee Cattermole awaits. But as we’ve seen with Liverpool all season, their threat isn’t limited to one man. Suarez failed to find the net against Swansea, but the Reds still bagged four.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- S'land 1-3 L'pool (Prem, Sep 13)
- L'pool 3-0 S'land (Prem, Jan 13)
- S'land 1-1 L'pool (Prem, Sep 12)
- S'land 1-0 L'pool (Prem, Mar 12)
- L'pool 1-1 S'land (Prem, Aug 11)
This is the first meeting between Poyet and Rodgers although, intriguingly, the Uruguayan was tipped to replace the Ulsterman when the latter left Swansea, based largely on the fact that the two share the same footballing virtues. Poyet has tried to stay true to these at Sunderland, with Borini and the resurgent Adam Johnson supporting a lone targetman from the flanks. The sight of Sunderland aimlessly lumping the ball forward to Jozy Altidore at the weekend, however, suggests he’s running out of ideas to find a way to goal. No such problems for Rodgers, whose team’s aim is simply to get the ball forward with precision and pace to his deadly strike duo.
TIPS & TRENDS
Facts and figures
- 10 of Liverpool’s last 11 home games have had at least 4 goals as they’ve scored 42 times on their own turf.
- Liverpool have had 7 Win/Win doubles in their last 8 home games against bottom-six teams.
- 7 of Sunderland’s last 9 trips to top-six teams have had more than 2 goals.
- Sunderland have scored first in 6 of their last 10 trips to top-six teams but have won only once.
Best Bet: Over 3.5 goals @ 1.95
More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
This could get embarrassing, but we’ll settle for 3-1.