Black Cats to inflict more bad luck on Liverpool
Sunderland v Liverpool | Sunday 13:30 - live on Sky Sports 1
Liverpool travel to Wearside on the back of a disappointing midweek exit from the Europa League. The omens don't look good though for a Reds side that lost all three of their Premier League away games directly following a Europa League matchday this season. That fact might not be a lasting concern for manager Kenny Dalglish as his team look destined to miss out on qualifying for European football for the first time since 1999.
It was Braga who ended the Merseysider's European dreams on Thursday and it's now the turn of the Black Cats to inflict even further bad luck.
Sunderland (17/10) welcome Liverpool (17/10) to the Stadium of Light on the back of a five game winless streak that saw them lose five games in a row until a hard fought point against Arsenal last time out. Steve Bruce's men have enjoyed a two week break since the game at the Emirates, which has allowed the likes of Lee Cattermole, Nedum Onuoha, Bolo Zenden and Danny Welbeck to return to the first team fold.
Bruce is likely to employ a five man midfield with Asamoah Gyan (13/2 first scorer, 15/8 anytime) deployed upfront as the lone striker. The returning Danny Welbeck (13/2 first scorer, 15/8 anytime) could be the one to support Gyan the most and if he can find the form he showed before his injury, the Manchester United loanee could cause the Liverpool defence plenty of problems. Goalscoring against the Reds has been something of a stumbling block for Sunderland as they've have only scored three goals in their last nine Premier League games against Liverpool - all were netted by the now-departed Darren Bent.
It's been almost two weeks since Liverpool dismantled bitter rivals Man Utd at Anfield by three goals to one. Manager Kenny Dalglish will have hoped to use that result and performance as a springboard for the rest of their season, but with the enforced break from Premier League games and then the poor display against Braga, all impetus has been lost. Things seemed so rosy after Dirk Kuyt (13/2 first scorer, 15/8 anytime) hit his hat-trick against United but now out of Europe and qualification for next season looking distinctly out of reach, could Liverpool's season spiral into a disappointing anti-climax?
Dalglish and the Liverpool supporters will hope not. The Reds have nothing left to lose this season so may opt to start with two out and out strikers in the shape of Andy Carroll (9/2 first scorer, 6/5 anytime) and Luis Suarez (11/2 first scorer, 6/4 anytime). Suarez has been ineligible for all of Liverpool's Europa campaign since his January switch from Ajax so was absent from the team in midweek but Carroll was able to make his first start for his new team.
Reds' fans will hope that Carroll can have the same devastating effect on the Sunderland defence as he did for Newcastle when spearheading a Geordie attack that thrashed the Black Cats 5-1.
Carroll will lock horns once again with Titus Bramble and it could be a game defining match up. Bramble has been a rock for Sunderland this season and is capable of brilliant defending but on the other hand, endured a horrid afternoon on his most recent meeting with the £35 million England forward.
My prediction for this match is for a narrow home win. As a player Steve Bruce reveled in his clashes with Liverpool and as a manager will be all out to defeat them once again. I can see a narrow home win and would back Sunderland to win by one goal at 3/1.