After six matches unbeaten, Liverpool will expect to maintain that form when they travel to the Stadium of Light to take on Sunderland on Saturday (12:45 GMT, live on BT Sport).
Sunderland come into the match on the back of a morale-boosting victory at home to Leeds United in the FA Cup. They are 14th in the Premier League table, three points clear of the bottom three, with 20 points from 3 wins, 11 draws and six defeats.
Gustavo Poyet’s side had the better of the first half against their Championship opponents and went in at the break ahead thanks to a crisp strike from left-back Patrick van Aanholt. They were, however, unable to press home their advantage and were relatively fortunate to progress to the next round after a much improved second-half performance from the visitors.
The victory was only Sunderland’s second in their last 10 matches in all competitions. While Poyet was pleased with the result, and the first-half performance, he was again left ruing his side’s inability to score more than one goal in a match – a feat they have managed just six times in 23 matches in all competitions, and just three times whilst also winning.
Sunderland have shown themselves to be quite adept at shutting out opposition attacks, as six 0-0 draws already this season will attest, but Poyet has yet to strike the right balance between defensive solidity and attacking impetus. His side have only scored without conceding in one league match to date and are also the division’s third lowest-scoring side.
Poyet has no confirmed injury absentees for this match but the participation of Anthony Reveillere (calf) is highly doubtful. Jack Rodwell (muscle), Lee Cattermole (groin), Ricardo Alvarez (illness) and Vito Mannone (illness) are all expected to be available.
Liverpool travel to the Stadium of Light on the back of a six-match unbeaten run in all competitions. They are, however, still eighth in the Premier League table, seven points shy of the top four, with 29 points from eight wins, five draws and seven defeats.
The Reds progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 2-1 win away to AFC Wimbledon on Monday. Steven Gerrard had earlier announced that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season and it was therefore fitting that he was the one to fire Liverpool into the next round with two goals that saw off their spirited League Two hosts.
It has generally been a difficult season for Brendan Rodgers (pictured) and his team, who have been unable to replicate the swashbuckling attacking play that took them to within a hair’s breadth of winning last season’s league title. Their defensive weaknesses have continually come back to haunt them on the occasions their forwards have functioned as expected.
The switch of Raheem Sterling to the position of nominal centre-forward has brought a little more effervescence to the Liverpool attack in recent weeks. This was evident in the 2-2 draw with Arsenal and the 4-1 win over Swansea either side of Christmas. But the manner in which they let a two-goal lead slip against Leicester shows that the defence still needs work.
Rodgers will definitely be without the injured Adam Lallana (thigh), Daniel Sturridge (thigh), Glen Johnson (groin) and Jon Flanagan (knee) for the trip to the north east. Brad Jones (thigh) and Joe Allen (knock) are expected to return.
Sunderland v Liverpool Betting Tips
Liverpool were victorious in both of last season’s fixtures between these sides, winning 2-1 at home and 3-1 at the Stadium of Light. The two teams did, however, play out a dull 0-0 draw when they met at Anfield in early December. The last six meetings between them in the north east have yielded three wins for Liverpool, two wins for Sunderland and one draw.
Sunderland have drawn far too many matches so far this season, and their return of just one win in 10 league matches on home soil is the joint-worst of any team in the division. They struggle when asked to take the initiative and although they have generally been solid defensively, that has usually proved insufficient to earn them all three points.
Liverpool have been a little brighter in recent weeks and although their defensive deficiencies are still plain to see, they do at least seem to have rekindled some of the attacking vibrancy that was such a key part of their superb campaign last season. Their inability to see off opponents is, however, likely to result in a draw here.
- Back the draw @ best betting odds of 13/5 with Bet365, BetVictor, Paddy Power or Boylesports.
- Six of Sunderland’s 10 home matches this season have seen two or fewer goals. If they take a comparable approach to that which they utilised at Anfield we can expect to see a similarly low-scoring match, regardless of the defensive flaws of their visitors. Back under 2.5 goals @ best odds of 10/11 with Ladbrokes or William Hill.