Liverpool will entertain Sunderland when the two sides meet at Anfield on Saturday where three points for the home side can steer them back to the summit even if it may end up being a temporary ascent.
In a week when speculation has been rife following the announcement of former captain Steven Gerrard’s retirement, Liverpool will be looking to keep their focus on the pitch in what has been a brilliant start for Jurgen Klopp in his first full season in charge. The Reds have been at their dominant best, especially in front of their home support, with their only loss in 2016/17 coming away at Turf Moor. They are a point shy of Chelsea and do come off the back of a respectable 0-0 draw at Southampton – a game they will feel they should have taken all three points, given the territorial advantage the Reds enjoyed. But with a favourable run of games coming up, all eyes will be on the Merseyside club to see how well they perform in the crucial run up to the new year.
Sunderland have found their feet at last in the league and so has David Moyes – with the club picking up back to back wins against Bournemouth and Hull so they should be quietly confident of their game plan travelling to Anfield in a fixture where the onus is not on them to take the initiative. The win against Hull City lifted the side up to 19th on the table and 3 points off 17th placed West Ham who will later travel to Old Trafford to face Man United. But both current form and history points towards a win for the home side as the Black Cats have never won a Premier League game at Anfield and they will have to do very well to come away with all 3 points as the last side that managed to win a game that mattered at Anfield was Manchester United in January 2016.
Adam Lallana is still sidelined with a groin injury and it will be interesting to see if Klopp starts Daniel Sturridge on Saturday after Liverpool failed to score only for the third time this season last weekend.
For Moyes, Denayer suffered a tight hamstring and will have to be assessed prior to the game. But Paddy McNair (ACL), Borini (Groin), Rodwell (Hamstring) are all out with long term injuries.
- James Milner has scored five league goals against Sunderland; against no other PL side has he netted more (also Hull City).
- Victor Anichebe has scored three goals in his last two Premier League appearances. He has never scored in three successive PL matches, despite playing 190 times in the competition.
- Sunderland are looking to win three successive PL matches for the first time since May 2014 (four).
Jordan Henderson – Liverpool
There’s never been a time when Liverpool needed a individual more to rally behind in a season which could be theirs at long last. Jurgen Klopp may be that charismatic figure at Liverpool since Gerrard’s exit but Jordan Henderson is not far from becoming a leader not only on the pitch but also off it – by being the key component under the German’s stewardship in an era where the early signs have been overwhelmingly positive. Jordan Henderson leads by example at club and country with an unparalleled work rate and energy in the middle of the park and the Reds will need all of that when they face his former side Sunderland who will be happy sit off and try to wear the home side down with their resilience.
Jermain Defoe – Sunderland
Jermain Defoe made history last week when he scored his 150th goal in the Premier League against Hull City after netting his 7th goal in 2016/17 for David Moyes’ recently revived Sunderland. His numbers speak for themselves and at 34 he looks fit as a fiddle with the same drive and intelligence to be in the right place at the right time, something he will always be remembered for. He can make the difference in any game and especially against the top sides when the pressure is off their shoulders and Sunderland will certainly go to Anfield in high spirits with their main men Defoe and Anichebe firing on all cylinders.
David Moyes has never won at Anfield in his managerial career and that is unlikely to change on Saturday.
Liverpool 3-1 Sunderland