Manager-less Sunderland host Liverpool live on SkySports on Sunday in their first Premier League game without Paolo Di Canio.
Sunderland find themselves bottom of the Premier League table without a win in their opening five games, their only point coming in a 1-1 draw away at Southampton in the second game of the season. Liverpool, on the other hand find themselves 5th after taking 10 points from their opening 5 games, with their only defeat coming last weekend at home to Southampton.
Sunderland’s main problem has been scoring goals this season, netting only 3 goals in their opening 5 games. They have also only managed to score 2 or more goals in 2 of their last 20 Premier League matches, with one of these matches being their impressive 3-0 win over local rivals Newcastle.
One of the reasons for Sunderland’s lack of goals has been the long term absence of Steven Fletcher, who scored 27% of Sunderland’s Premier League goals last season even though he did not feature after the 17th March. The Scotland frontman did return to first team action against Crystal Palace but has since picked up a shoulder injury against West Brom and will be out for the next six weeks.
Liverpool have relied heavily on Daniel Sturridge for goals this season, with the former Chelsea man scoring 4 of their 5 goals in the Premier League, with all 4 of his goals and all 5 of Liverpool’s goals coming in the first half. Sturridge has been on fire since joining Liverpool in January scoring 14 goals in 19 Premier League games in 2013, which has been vital for the reds with Luis Suarez just coming back after a 10 match ban.
Steven Fletcher has been ruled out for 6 weeks after injuring his shoulder against West Brom, while Wes Brown and Phil Bardsley remain on the sidelines. Fabio Borini is ineligible to play against his parent club, while Lee Cattermole will be looking to keep his place after impressing against Peterborough.
Glen Johnson, Aly Cissokho and Phillipe Coutinho are all long term absentees, while Daniel Agger will face a late fitness test after missing the League Cup tie with Manchester United in the week with a knock. Luis Suarez returns to Premier League action after his 10 match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and should go straight into the starting line up.
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[li]Six of the eleven goals Sunderland have conceded this season have come in the final 15 minutes of matches.[/li]
[li]Sunderland did not win a home game when the opposition scored first last season (9 games).[/li]
[li]10 of Daniel Sturridge’s last 15 Premier League goals have come away from home.[/li]
[li]Sunderland have conceded the most second half goals this season (8).[/li]
[li]Liverpool have not scored a second half goal this season.[/li]
[li]Lucas has attempted the joint most tackles this season (26) winning 69% of them.[/li]
[li]Only Eden Hazard (14) and Kyle Walker (13) have created more chances than Adam Johnson (12) this season.[/li]
Adam Johnson has been one of the only shining lights in Sunderland’s poor start to the season, with the former Manchester City midfielder putting on some decent displays.
Johnson has been Sunderland’s most creative player by a distance this season creating 12 chances, which is the third most in the Premier League and 7 more than any other Sunderland player. This works out to a chance created every 38 minutes, which is more often than Oscar, Theo Walcott and Leighton Baines who was the top chance creator last season.
Adam Johnson has also created 2 clear cut chances, with only Olivier Giroud, Nacer Chadli and Andreas Weimann (all 3) creating more than him this season. Johnson is also the only Sunderland player to create more than one clear cut chance and has created 50% of Sunderland’s clear cut chances this season.
The England midfielder has failed to register an assist this season but this may be more so due to the poor finishing from the Sunderland strikers.
Johnson has also made 11 accurate crosses in the Premier League this season, which is 8 more than any other Sunderland player, and has completed 32% of his overall crosses.
If Sunderland are to get anything out of this game then Adam Johnson will need to be on form and carry on his impressive start to the season, but more importantly the Sunderland players will need to convert these chances into goals.
Luis Suarez returns to Premier League action for the first time since biting Branislav Ivanovic in the 2-2 draw with Chelsea in April.
The Uruguayan was in scintillating form last season, scoring 23 goals and getting 5 assists in 33 Premier League appearances. Suarez was in line for the golden boot last season before the incident with Ivanovic and will be looking to get back in the goals this season and prove his worth to Liverpool football club.
Suarez hit the target with 50% of his 143 shots last season and found the back of the net every 128 minutes, converting 53% his 30 clear cut chances.
If Luis Suarez can replicate his form from last season and form an understanding with Daniel Sturridge then Liverpool will have no problems finding the back of the net this season.
Sturridge has impressed everyone since joining Liverpool in January and Premier League defences will be dreading facing Sturridge and Suarez in the coming fixtures.
Sunderland have struggled for goals this season and will be missing both Fabio Borini and Steven Fletcher, while Liverpool have a hungry striker back in the form of Luis Suarez who will be looking for goals on his return.
Therefore, I am going for a Liverpool win and Suarez to get back amongst the goals.
Sunderland 0-2 Liverpool