~ Uday Naresh Telkar
25.09.2010, 19.25 IST – Live on ESPN
Keeping the boardroom problems aside, Liverpool’s on-field heroics – or rather the lack of it – has been the major talking point of the town so far this season. With only one win out of their opening five league fixtures, it has been a bumpy ride for the new manager Roy Hodgson, who has been made to be circumspect with every decision that he takes. His plans backfired again on Wednesday when a young Liverpool side slumped to a relatively weak Northampton coming from League Two in the Curling Cup. Roy would agree that it has been a patchy start to the season; but now it is time for him to get on with the game and move Liverpool up from the dismal 16th spot in the League table.
Sunderland on the other hand, although have quite similar results so far this season, bearing one loss less than Liverpool has placed them at a comfortable 11th on the table. Steve Bruce’s side might have got the boot in the Carling Cup but that will give the gaffer no reason to worry going into Saturday’s game against Liverpool. Sunderland have proved resilient so far this season and their last minute equalizer against Arsenal in their previous EPL fixture has boosted their confidence further. New signing Asamoah Gyan has already bagged 2 goals since the beginning of the season and would be eager to prove his worth against a big club like Liverpool; but a hamstring injury in the Carling cup game against West Ham might sideline him from the starting XI at Anfield. His strike partner, Darren Bent has been prolific for Sunderland. 5 goals in 7 appearances so far in all competitions is something that will make Steve Bruce smile.
Roy Hodgson shouldn’t have any qualms in picking his team for the game against Sunderland since all the senior players, with the exception of Dirk Kuyt, seem to be fit and available for selection. In fact Dirk’s recovery has gone faster than expected and hence Roy has even hinted that he may be part of the squad for Saturday’s game. Torres’ form is still a tad below the mark but given the quality of the player that he is, everybody is confident he will hit top form soon. Sunderland though, have been hit with the injury curse this time. The midweek Carling Cup game against West Ham saw only two changes to the team that faced Arsenal last week. However, key players Anton Ferdinand, Kieron Richardson and Asamoah Gyan picked up injuries which has put Steve Bruce in a dilemma. Also, the recent allegations surrounding Sunderland defender Titus Bramble makes things worse for the manager. It looks like his vocal tonic this time will count a lot if Sunderland is to walk away with even a single point from this tie.
The Liverpool squad has seen quite a few radical changes this summer and as a team, still looks a little shaky. The arrival of Meireles, Cole and Poulsen is yet to bear fruit, but the positive point for Liverpool is the recent backing that the supporters have provided in regard to the ownership of the club; which is a testimony to the fact that Liverpool supporters will get behind their team and spur them on in every game in every competition. Travelling to Anfield has never been easy for any team and Steve Bruce’s men would know what it means to walk away with all three points from Merseyside. Hopefully there will be no beach balls this time around.
Probable Starting Lineups:
Liverpool FC: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Koncheskey, Meireles, Gerrard, Cole, Jovanovic, Maxi, Torres.
Sunderland FC: Gordon, Bardsley, da Silva, Onuoha, McCartney, Zenden, Malbranque, Riveros, Henderson, Bent, Welbeck.
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For:
Raul Meireles (Liverpool)
Liverpool’s 11 million pound signing from Porto is yet to find his sweet spot in Roy Hodgson’s squad. So far Roy seems to have experimented with him in various positions to help him find his place, but five games into the season, he can very well deploy the tattoo man in the position he is best suited for. Big things are expected from Meireles and his presence makes him THT’s Player To Watch Out For.
TheHardTackle’s Blast From The Past:
2009-10: 1. Sunderland 1-0 Liverpool FC;
2. Liverpool FC 3-0 Sunderland
2008-09: 1. Sunderland 0-1 Liverpool FC;
2. Liverpool FC 2-0 Sunderland
Liverpool FC 2-0 Sunderland