10am, live in the US on FSC
Last 4 head-to-head:
2-0 Liverpool (h) 03.03.09
1-0 Liverpool (a) 08.16.08
3-0 Liverpool (h) 02.02.08
2-0 Liverpool (a) 08.25.07
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-2 Chelsea (a); 0-2 Fiorentina (a); 6-1 Hull (h)
Sunderland: 2-2 United (a); 5-2 Wolves (h); 2-0 Brum (h)
Liverpool: Torres 8; Benayoun, Gerrard, Kuyt 3; Babel, Johnson 2; Ngog 1
Sunderland: Bent 7; Jones 5; Reid, Turner 1
Referee: Mike Jones
His first Liverpool match, and only 18th Premiership contest. Should be interesting.
Guess at a squad:
Johnson Skrtel Carragher Aurelio
Babel Benayoun Riera
Have I mentioned that I love international breaks lately?
I guess we should be happy Liverpool only lost three players to the national teams. Most significantly, both Gerrard and Torres have been ruled out of tomorrow’s game; with minor knocks, hopefully both will be back for Lyon. It’s especially infuriating given both England and Spain had already qualified for the World Cup. At least Kyrgiakos isn’t as bad as initially feared – the defender should only miss a week to ten days according to Benitez. Maybe Voronin will slot in for Gerrard, but I think the above line-up is far more likely, and definitely poses more of an attacking threat.
In addition, a majority of players were away from Anfield, while only five of Sunderland’s featured for their national team. Insua, Mascherano, and Lucas all traveled to South America, but the injury problems mean both midfielders will probably start. Aurelio will probably come in at left back to spell Insua after the trip though. At the same time, Babel and Kuyt went to Australia for a friendly(!), but at least both were back in Liverpool earlier this week. Kuyt picked up an ankle knock, but should be good to go. Agger played twice, Riera and Reina each played one full match for Spain, and Skrtel, Gleninho, and Benayoun also featured for their countries.
Some good did come out of the international break. I’d like to thank Denmark for helping Agger get match fit. The Dane played all 180 minutes and didn’t look out of place, which bodes well for Liverpool. However, as Skrtel missed Slovakia’s second game due to suspension and Carra’s had two weeks off, Agger will probably just make the bench. Insua’s appearance for the national team, in which Argentina finally qualified, will help the young defender, but I think he’ll get tomorrow off to recover. Benayoun is the only player whose team is out of the World Cup, which will be a morale boost to the 17 others whose 11 countries have either qualified or are in the playoffs.
In eight meetings, Liverpool under Benitez has beaten a Steve Bruce team exactly once in the league – last year’s 3-2 win over Wigan. Liverpool was 0-3-2 against Birmingham and 1-2-0 versus Wigan under Bruce. This’ll be the first time Liverpool plays Bruce’s Sunderland side. Let’s hope it goes a bit differently.
I’ve been impressed with Sunderland, even discounting the draw at Old Trafford. The team sits only two points behind Liverpool in 8th, and has two top-rate strikers in Bent and Jones. The defense, marshaled by former target Michael Turner with Gordon in goal, can also be stingy. Sunderland can be beaten in midfield – Kieran Richardson, Andy Reid, and Steed Malbranque don’t strike fear in the heart – but both Lucas and Mascherano will have to improve on recent performances, no matter the long trip from South America.
This will not be an easy match, made more difficult by the absences. And it kicks off a hellish week where Liverpool will also face Lyon and United. Fun. Time to get the season on the right track, no matter who’s missing.