Has the game against Manchester City finished yet? It certainly doesn’t feel like it. It’s absolutely crazy that the Reds have to play against Sunderland less than 48 hours after such an intense and important match had even come to its conclusion. I’m also incredibly bitter about the fact that Chelsea have got an extra two days rest. It’s ridiculous that not much is being made of that, really.
Still, play we must. David Moyes’ men haven’t had a significantly longer period of rest than us, finishing their match against Burnley about four hours before we ended ours. It could well be a battle of the relative fitness of the two sides and if that’s the case then my money is pretty squarely on Liverpool to do the business. As I said in my review of the Man City game, a win for the Reds at The Stadium Of Light could be season defining.
Let’s be honest, this seems like a case of Jürgen Klopp sending out whichever players have moving limbs. The ludicrousness of the fixture schedule means it’s all about the size and depth of the squad. I’ll start by confirming who definitely won’t be playing, though, and that includes Joel Matip who is still out with an ankle issue. Philippe Coutinho is unlikely to feature at all, but then I wouldn’t be totally shocked if the manager pulled a surprise and stuck him on the bench.
Jordan Henderson left the field of play last night with a heel problem. The good news is that it’s not the same heel that he had issues with last season, but that will be scant consolation for Liverpool supporters until we know exactly what’s going on. His performances this season have been excellent and we can’t afford to be without him for long. The big question really is whether Klopp will rotate loads of players or just one or two and hope that our superior fitness will give us the edge.
Given that Divock Origi only played a bit part against City and Daniel Sturridge didn’t feature at all, I thoroughly expect the team to be built around the two of them. It’s not a bad pairing to turn to, with Sturridge in particular liable to cause the Sunderland defence all sorts of problems if he’s in a good way. I honestly have no idea what Klopp will do, but my team would be: Mignolet – Clyne – Klavan – Lovren – Moreno – Can – Wijnaldum – Lallana – Mané – Origi – Sturridge.
The Burnley match wasn’t kind to Sunderland, in more ways than one. They lost convincingly but, worse than that, they suffered two quite big injuries. Victor Anichebe went off with a hamstring injury and Lamine Kone seemed to pick up a hip injury. Jason Denayer also has a hamstring issue and Billy Jones is suspended. Unlike his opposite number, David Moyes doesn’t have a particularly big squad to turn to and those that are available aren’t exactly of the best quality in the league.
That’s not to suggest that Sunderland don’t have anything that can threaten us. Jermaine Defoe remains a class act and our defenders will have to be well-focused to nullify him. There’s also a familiar face who might be pressed into action in the form of Javier Manquillo; the Spanish full-back is on loan at The Stadium of Light from Atletico Madrid. Former Everton player Steven Pienaar came on at half-time against Burnley so will almost certainly be fit enough to start, whilst Adnan Januzaj would love to score against us.
After a brief drop in form it’s fair to say that the Reds are back in winning ways. The reason that we’re still within touching distance of Chelsea is that we’ve only lost two matches all season and drawn four. We’ve won four of our last five and even the fifth was a draw, meaning we’re one of the form teams in the Premier League right now, behind Chelsea who are looking imperious. We’ve also won the last three games we’ve played at The Stadium of Light.
For Sunderland things look decidedly bleaker. That they’ve only won one of their last five would be bad enough, but it’s even worse when you see that they’ve lost the other four. Of those four they conceded three against Swansea, three against Manchester United and four against Burnley on New Year’s Eve. We’ve played Sunderland eighteen times in the Premier League and have lost just three of them. The losses were home games for the Black Cats, though, so that’s worth bearing in mind.
I don’t expect this game to be a cracker, I’ll be honest. I think it’s going to be attritional and anyone thinking anything different is likely to be disappointed. That doesn’t mean that it won’t be worth sticking a bet on, though, and I reckon there’s some money to be made if you make the right choices. Having brought home three of my last four chief tips, I’m hoping these will pique your interest:
Sturridge To Score
It feels as though the past few weeks have been about getting Daniel Sturridge ready for this game. He’s made cameo appearances against the likes of Stoke and Everton but has mainly been being kept fresh since his return from his latest injury. He’ll be raring to go and desperate to prove to Jürgen Klopp that he’s not only good enough to start more regularly but also be one of the first name’s on the manager’s team sheet. Add that to the fact that he’s a class act anyway and you’ve got yourself a bet that seems like a steal.
The England striker has scored in the last three games that he’s played against Sunderland, though admittedly his most recent appearance against the Black Cats was in 2014. It’s still well worth considering sticking a big bet on him, however, so the Evens available for Sturridge to Score Anytime might not see huge returns but it’s still well worth looking at. If you want longer odds then you might want to stick a bet on Our Number Nine as the First Goal Scorer, which is 7/2.
The striker gets called ‘lazy’ by clueless idiots who have decided to buy into the media narrative on his personality, but in reality he’s anything but. You can get 9/2 for Sturridge To Score 2 or More and that’s another bet I’d be thinking seriously about placing. You can also get odds of 20/1 foe Sturridge to Score a Hat-Trick. They’re long odds, but it’s not exactly out of the realms of the possible that he’ll pull it off.
Other Goal Scorers
It’s difficult to know whether this is going to be a high-scoring game or not, though if Liverpool play well and Sunderland defend in the same manner that they did against Burnley then we could well get a bagful. If you don’t want to bet on Sturridge for whatever reason then you might want to consider Divock Origi. I’m fairly certain that Klopp will be starting them both and Origi is at least slightly longer on the odds front, coming in at 5/4 to Score Anytime.
Jermaine Defoe is the Sunderland player I’m most concerned about. Class is permanent, as they say, and the one-time Spurs striker has qualities that will cause our defence problems. He’s quick, intelligent and uses his pace and footballing mind to out-wit opponents rather than brute strength. Defoe is 7/2 to Score Anytime and if you’re as nervous about what he might be able to do to a tired Dejan Lovren as I am then I’d have a nibble at that price.
Both Teams To Score
It’s a funny old game. Liverpool are a team with a ‘dodgy defence’ if you read the press, yet we’ve secured five clean sheets in our last ten league games. We aren’t flawless at the back, however, and we’re still give up more chances than I’m happy with. I’d love us to keep back-to-back clean sheets but I can’t look past the 2/1 available for Liverpool to Win and Both Teams To Score.
As you can probably tell, I’m going all-in on Sturridge to do the business against the Black Cats. It may not be brilliant odds, but I think if you lump on Sturridge to Score Anytime @ Evens then you’ll at least double your money. My other main tip would be for Liverpool To Win and Both Teams To Score, which is 2/1.