12:30pm, live in the US on FSC
Last 4 meetings:
3-0 Liverpool (h) 02.02.08
2-0 Liverpool (a) 08.25.07
2-0 Liverpool (a) 11.30.05
1-0 Liverpool (h) 08.20.05
Referee: Alan Wiley
Guess at a squad
Arbeloa Carragher Agger Dossena
Kuyt Gerrard Alonso Benayoun
Even with the awful display on Wednesday, I expect Gerrard for Plessis to be the only change. And yes, I'm still not sure if this a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-1-1.
Maybe Pennant will start in place of Kuyt to give Liverpool the width they were lacking in the last match. In addition, Aurelio has declared himself fit, but I imagine Benitez will give Dossena his league debut, and the opportunity to get past his performance against Standard. Although Aurelio could also play at left wing, with Yossi possibly moving over to the right.
Finally, the official site says that both Alonso and Benayoun suffered dead legs in Liege, but gives no indication as to whether the knocks would keep either out.
For the fifth straight season, Liverpool opens their Premiership campaign on the road. The team has never been at Anfield for the first league match under Benitez (draw at Spurs, draw at Boro, draw at Sheffield and a win at Villa). It's imperative that Liverpool start well and ideally get an early goal, both to quiet the crowd and get the monkey from the last match off their backs.
Sunderland’s new signings are Pascal Chimbonda, Steed Malbranque and Teemu Tainio from Tottenham and ex-Red (and all-around lovely bloke) El-Hadji Diouf. I still consider Craig Gordon one of the best keepers in the league. While losing Jonny Evans (who returned to the Mancs) won’t help their defense, Nyron Nosworthy did well against Torres in both matches last season. I expect Keane to continue to improve the side, and am still amazed at the job he’s done in his first managerial position.
Admittedly, there could be far worse opening matches. But Sunderland, especially at the Stadium of Light, will be no slouches, looking to build upon and surpass last season’s performance. The squad has improved, and I expect Keane will have them raring to go. Even though this is Sunderland’s second season in the division, I can’t help but remember back to the opening game of 06/07 against Sheffield United, especially after the match against Standard de Liege.
Last season, a last-minute win on the road against Villa boosted expectations and started the campaign on the right foot, even though it didn’t end as hoped. Liverpool will have to replicate that result, because I truly fear a media backlash if the team underperforms for a second-straight game. Hopefully, Wednesday will have been one hell of a wake-up call.
FYI: Also, last chance to join the fantasy league. We've got 14 teams so far. Click on leagues in the sidebar, look for the area to enter a code for a private league. The entry code is 843886-165015.