Sunderland will be determined to avoid a sixth consecutive defeat when they entertain a Liverpool side which has not won any of its last three away matches in all competitions.
It seems as if the January transfer window cannot come any sooner for Sam Allardyce as he continues to give thinly veiled hints that his defensive options are in need of bolstering, and their lack of cohesion was again clear to see at Manchester City on Boxing Day. While they were undone by some excellent attacking play, the Black Cats did not do themselves any favours and to go three goals down within the opening quarter of any match is clearly a recipe for disaster.
The positive signs that arose during the early weeks of Allardyce’s tenure have quickly faded away and he will hope here that his three central defenders are not made to suffer by Liverpool’s high pressing game. But they also need to pose a serious threat going forward, and in Fabio Borini they do have a player that has scored in successive games to belatedly get his season going, as well as someone who is surely motivated by the prospect of facing his former club.
After a series of below-par performances which served to silence any speculative talk of a potential title push under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool were much closer to the required standard in becoming the first side to beat leaders Leicester City on their travels this term, and prevent from scoring. It was a purposeful display throughout which should have resulted in a less nervy conclusion, but they will take a lot from it and should fancy their chances of maintaining that form on Wearside.
Christian Benteke got the winner against the Foxes with a crisp finish after intelligently finding space inside the penalty area, and he will hope that that can persuade Klopp that he is worthy of a starting place on a more regular basis. The injury to Divock Origi which enabled him to come on may turn out to be a blessing for the Reds on the attacking front, and if Daniel Sturridge can remain fit for a sustained period of time upon his return from injury, things will certainly be looking up.
The hosts are set to make changes from the defeat at Man City, with possible recalls for Lee Cattermole and Ola Toivonen. Defender Younes Kaboul is out, but Jack Rodwell returns after serving a one-match ban.
Sturridge is likely to be among the Liverpool substitutes, while Origi is doubtful. James Milner is still out due to injury, but Jordon Ibe could come back into the fold after recovering from illness.
Last Meeting: It was an extremely one-sided encounter the last time these sides met nearly a year ago, but Liverpool only had Lazar Markovic’s early strike to show for it by the end. The Serbian winger finished off a sublime passing move after eight minutes, and for the most part they cruised to victory from then on. Adam Johnson hit the bar in the only moment the hosts came remotely near scoring, while they ended with 10 men after Liam Bridcutt saw red for two bookings.
Played for both – El-Hadji Diouf: A pantomime villain throughout his time in the Premier League, Diouf came to Liverpool with high hopes in 2002 but mostly disappointed, scoring three goals in 55 outings and not particularly endearing himself to supporters. His spell at Sunderland in 2008-09 did not last long as he made just 14 appearances before having a much more successful spell with Blackburn Rovers.