The atmosphere at Anfield will be even more electric than usual as the fans will be protesting against the new, very hiked ticket prices that the club have announced, while Liverpool welcome relegation battling Sunderland.
The pre-eminent feeling at Anfield this Saturday will be one of protest, as the Black Cats travel to merseyside in search of those elusive points that will help them crawl out of the 19th spot on the league table and closer to safety. They will be fancying their chances against a Liverpool side that has only one win in their last 5 games, a 5-4 thriller against Norwich City.
The Reds are currently lying in the 8th position on the table, a full 16 points away from the top dogs, or rather foxes, Leicester City, who handed them a 2-0 defeat in mid-week. Although a title challenge now seems highly improbable, Liverpool will be hoping to try and make up the 11 point difference between themselves and Champions League qualification.
Supporters not customers
Two prominent Reds supporters groups, the Spion Kop 1906 group and the Spirit of Shankly (SoS), have voiced their displeasure at the club for announcing a sharp increase in ticket prices, which they have described as ‘morally unjustifiable’. The groups are urging fans to walk out in the 77th minute, as the top priced tickets in the new main stand have been priced at 77 pound.
If the walk-out happens this will be the first time ever that an organized protest has happened in the otherwise devotional atmosphere of Anfield and could serve as a sharp slap on the wrist to Liverpool and other clubs in England. Ticket prices in the country are the highest across all the top leagues in Europe, this in spite of an extremely lucrative TV deal already having been agreed upon.
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Big Sam and Crazy Klopp have underwhelmed
The last time the two managers came up against each other, a Christian Benteke goal helped Liverpool edge out a narrow victory over Sunderland. Both of them joined their clubs mid-season and they haven’t quite lived up to the expectations. Sam Allardyce was brought to Sunderland to do what he does best, drag a relegation threatened club back to safety and he may be facing his toughest challenge yet, as the Black Cats need to make up lost ground.
Jurgen Klopp was brought in to take Liverpool out of their mid-table squalour, but after an exciting start, he hasn’t achieved surpassed his predecessors achievements and record at the club. Both the managers will be looking up to salvage their reputations and won’t be pulling any punches in this encounter.
Jermain Defoe v/s Sakho/Lovren
The hopes of the Black Cats will lie primarily on the experienced shoulders of former England and Tottenham forward Jermain Defoe. The 33-year-old, who was nominated for January’s Premier League player of the year award, remains the clubs greatest goal scoring threat and he will be looking to prey on a suspect Liverpool defence.
The Reds defence has often come undone during key moments, and Defoe will be hoping to capitalize on any errors made by the defence. Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren are the pair who will line up against him and both would do well to be aware of the forwards predatory presence around the penalty area and ability to get behind defences.
Lee Cattermole v/s Emre Can
The Englishman and the German will very likely be involved in some of the heated exchanges in midfield. They are the midfield generals for their respective sides and are two impassioned individuals who are not averse to making a strong tackle or two or being part of a stare down or two.
A lot of the action in central midfield will probably involve Cattermole and Can and they will look to dictate play as well getting involved in attacking moves, tracking back to defend and try very hard not to see red or get too many yellow cards.
Roberto Firmino v/s Vito Mannone
The Brazilian sensation is having a great run of form for Liverpool, as Jurgen Klopp has trusted him enough to play him in a primary attacking position as a false 9. He has prospered in that role, scoring braces in Liverpool’s last two league victories and he will likely play a key role in the result this time around too.
Former Arsenal keeper and Italy international Vito Mannone will have his work cut out for him against Firmino. Sunderland’s defence being the worst in the league having conceded 47 goals so far, with a number of keepers taking turns between the sticks. It is very likely Mannone will be kept on his toes throughout the game.
Blast from the Past: The Lord at the Stadium of Light
The last time Sunderland managed a win against Liverpool, it was none other than Danish Striker Nicklas Bendtner who scored the only goal in the match to give the Black Cats an upset over the favored Reds.