25 November 2016

Liverpool v Sunderland 11.26.16

10am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
2-2 (h) 02.06.16
1-0 Liverpool (a) 12.30.15
1-0 Liverpool (a) 01.10.15
0-0 (h) 12.06.14

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Southampton (a); 6-1 Watford (h); 4-2 Palace (a)
Sunderland: 3-0 Hull (h); 2-1 Bournemouth (a); 1-4 Arsenal (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Mané 6; Coutinho, Firmino 5; Milner 4; Lallana 3; Can, Lovren 2; Henderson, Matip, WIjnaldum 1
Sunderland: Defoe 7; Anichebe 3; van Aanholt 2

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Matip Lovren Milner
Wijnaldum Henderson Can
Mané Firmino Coutinho

Each week it feels as if it's getting easier to predict Liverpool's XI, but each week, Liverpool deploy a different XI, having gone 40 league games without starting the same lineup in consecutive matches. The last time it happened was in Klopp's first and second matches.

Tomorrow should see that streak broken. Adam Lallana's still out and as far as we know, there aren't any new injuries.

However, there is one potential alteration: Coutinho dropping into midfield, with Sturridge (or, less likely, Origi) starting in place of Wijnaldum or Can. Given Liverpool's expected dominance of possession, neither Can nor Wijnaldum really impressing against Southampton, and Sturridge seemingly more than due for multiple goals, it's worth considering.

But I don't really expect it to happen. Klopp likes the system he's settled upon. Liverpool have been good in the system he's settled upon. Liverpool will probably keep doing Liverpool.

Meanwhile, Sunderland. It's a bit early for their it-happens-every-season miraculous escape from relegation, but they've started on that path. Winless in their first ten games – eight losses and two draws – they've earned consecutive victories, albeit over Bournemouth and Hull. And they've done it despite having a player sent off in each of those matches. They're still mired among the dross in the relegation zone, but they're no longer propping up the table, and are just three points from safety.

Bringing Victor Anichebe into the starting XI has been the catalyst. All three of his goals came in those two wins, three of the five goals that Sunderland scored in those two wins. Ostensibly playing on the left but often the second striker along with Defoe, he's added a much needed goal threat. Defoe had responsible for pretty much every other goal Sunderland had scored this season (yes, van Aanholt has two, but that's it).

Injuries have played a large part in Sunderland's woes, and they'll be missing more than a few likely starters tomorrow. Djilobodji's suspended after being sent off against Hull. McNair, Borini, Cattermole are assuredly out, while Kirchhoff, Larsson, Rodwell, and Denayer are doubtful.

The starting XI will look something like Pickford; Jones, Kone, O'Shea, van Aanholt; Ndong, Kirchhoff; Watmore, Januzaj, Anichebe; Defoe. One of the doubtful midfielders – Kirchhoff, Rodwell, Denayer – probably has to start, although Pienaar (also recently back from injury) could be an option. Khazri and Gooch are options on the flanks, but Anichebe's certain to start and Watmore's work-rate will probably see him chosen on the other side.

These are the matches where Liverpool should roll. See: 4-1 Leicester, 5-1 Hull, 6-1 Watford. Even 2-1 West Brom, another home match, and one where Liverpool should have won by far more than they did. Other than 0-0 against Manchester United, flailing against Mourinho's parked bus after an international break, Liverpool have been really, really, really, really good at Anfield. Liverpool have utterly steam-rolled the lesser lights of the league. Liverpool have done exactly what Liverpool have needed to do in these fixtures, fixtures where Liverpool have failed before.

But Liverpool also haven't had the best time in this fixture lately, with draws in each of the last two meetings at Anfield: 0-0 in 2014-15 and 2-2 last season, with Liverpool letting a two-goal lead slip in the final 10 minutes. Sure, it's a different Liverpool and a different Sunderland, but the law of averages and my undying pessimism suggests that Liverpool are due for a fall at Anfield. Anichebe's on a scoring streak, Defoe is always a threat on the counter, and even if we've been pleasantly surprised so far this season, Liverpool can always Liverpool. The bad Liverpool, not the good Liverpool.

It's up to Liverpool to ensure that doesn't happen. This *should* be in the style of Liverpool's other big home wins; Sunderland were bottom of the goals scored table until last weekend, which was also the first league match where they kept a clean sheet. They've conceded three to Everton and Palace, and four to Arsenal, and those matches were all at the Stadium of Light. But Sunderland have been marginally better, at least defensively, away from home. They've the same record – 1W-1D-4L – but have conceded five fewer goals on their travels. That's Moyes. Playing for the 0-0.

Liverpool can't just turn up expecting par for the course. This is the start of an "easy" stretch, facing Sunderland (18th), Bournemouth (10th), West Ham (17th), and Boro (15th), and Liverpool need to make it count, especially since their top-four rivals all have at least one difficult fixture, if not more.

Thankfully, Liverpool 'just turning up' has become much, much less of a concern since Jürgen Klopp became manager.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Great as always