Sunderland will want to forget last weekend for the ugly scenes during the Tyne-Wear derby with Newcastle and their inability to hold out for one minute more with ten men. Liverpool will want to forget last weekend for how many chances they missed and another dropped set of home points thanks to the wondrous left foot of Robin van Persie.
Martin O’Neill was involved in altercations with Newcastle manager Alan Pardew at the Sports Direct Arena last weekend in a game that was not short of controversy. Stephane Sessegnon was dismissed for a stupid elbow on Cheick Tiote, whereas Lee Cattermole was sent off after the final whistle for berating referee Mike Dean. O’Neill will be without both midfielders this weekend and faces fitness tests on three of his defenders.
Kieran Richardson is a major doubt for the game with a calf problem, so loan signing Wayne Bridge is on stand-by to make his first start of the season. John O’Shea is expected to play with a protective cast over the broken bone in his hand and Sotiros Kyrgiakos could return to contention after a heel problem. Sunderland have lost just once at home since December and will be looking to pick up another scalp after beating Arsenal and Manchester City already at the Stadium of Light this season.
Liverpool created numerous chances at Anfield against the Gunners, but failed to convert which has been the story of their season so far. The Reds have been better away from home than at home, winning six on their travels in the league this season. Kenny Dalglish was exasperated at how Liverpool did not win last weekend, but the Reds came up against an inspired Wojciech Szczesny who saved a Dirk Kuyt penalty during the game.
Kuyt is still expected to start at the Stadium of Light and could be rejoined by returning captain Steven Gerrard. The 31 year old sustained a minor hamstring problem on England duty, but has recovered and is eyeing a start in the Liverpool side. Defender Glen Johnson, who reignited the Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra handshake row again this week, also returns for the Reds and is expected to replace Martin Kelly at right-back for Dalglish. Daniel Agger is a definite miss from the Liverpool side with a cracked rib suffered in the Carling Cup final win over Cardiff City.
Sunderland came away from Anfield earlier this season with a 1-1 draw and the Black Cats will be confident that their home form can stop Liverpool from picking up a win against them this season. A win for O’Neill’s side draws them to within two points of the Reds, but Dalglish will be looking for three points in the North East to close the gap on sixth placed Newcastle. Liverpool were deflated after their injury-time defeat at home to Arsenal, but should have enough quality to get a point out of a resilient Sunderland under O’Neill.
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