This is a game involving one side who is struggling to revive the sparkle that netted them so many plaudits last term, and another who are proving to be absolutely stubborn to break down. There are many suggestions that this game won’t be entertaining in the slightest for the neutral, but there’s no doubt that the result will be significant on the whole Premier League table outlook.
When we talk about the significance of the result, we’re mainly referring to what it means for Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers. After failing to replicate his side’s scintillating form from last term, the former Swansea manager has come under increasing amounts of pressure. There’s no doubt that the title charge is well and truly off the agenda, but with five points separating them from the top four Champions League qualification is still within their grasp. Of course, if things continue to play out as they have for the whole campaign – that opportunity will soon be gone as well. The Reds have been boosted over the last couple of games following victories over Stoke and Leicester, but it will take more than two wins to convince supporters and pundits that they are half the team they were last year.
Sunderland meanwhile appear to have improved from last term, although the Black Cats are still looking over their shoulders. A return of fourteen points so far means that Gus Poyet’s men are just two points above the relegation zone – although in essence all of the teams in the bottom half are probably feeling quite similar due to the tightness of the division. Something that will give the Stadium of Light outfit confidence ahead of this game is their performances over recent weeks. They might have found victories hard to come by, having won just one of their last seven, but they did manage to remain unbeaten through the course of November. They became draw-specialists, but this stubborn approach could be something that aids them immensely ahead of a tricky trip to Anfield.
One of the big questions hanging over Merseyside over recent weeks has been the future of Steven Gerrard, and it will be interesting to see if Brendan Rodgers opts to utilize him in a second game in less than a week. Elsewhere, there could be places for Jose Enrique and Philippe Coutinho who have both recovered following spells on the treatment table. Sunderland on the other hand have been boosted through the return of Wes Brown and Adam Johnson after they both recovered from injury. However, it’s not all positive for the Black Cats, with Sebastian Coates ineligible due to the terms of his loan agreement while Steven Fletcher is a doubt with a back injury.
As for a prediction, we think Sunderland’s ability to grind games out and frustrate teams could bode well at Anfield this afternoon. Despite their recent victories, Liverpool are anything but convincing and for this reason we think they’ll be held to a goalless draw.