Hands up: we got the Southampton vs Liverpool fixture completely wrong. Given the Reds’ form up until that point, we expected goals to flow; particularly with the Saints themselves more than capable in the final third of the pitch.
Despite having nearly two-thirds (64%) of the ball, Liverpool could only fashion two clear-cut goalscoring opportunities against a well-drilled Southampton backline. In truth, Roberto Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne should have both scored when well placed, and excellent last ditch tackles from Jose Fonte and Virgil Van Dijk prevented promising attacks being converted.
At least both facets of their game are in good nick then – that was the Reds’ first clean sheet since the 0-0 borefest with Manchester United, and that bodes well heading into Saturday’s encounter with the rejuvenated Sunderland.
The Black Cats have won their last two matches after previously going ten without a victory, and will be in good spirits ahead of their trip to Anfield. But have they really got what it takes to stop Jurgen Klopp’s rampant Reds?
Liverpool Team News
This may sound like a bizarre notion, but for any club with aspirations of winning the Premier League title NOT participating in European football seems to be the way to go. It certainly worked for Leicester City last season on route to their historic run, as they were able to deploy essentially the same tactics and team week in, week out while their main rivals chopped and changed to deal with the fallout of a packed schedule.
It has certainly helped Jurgen Klopp with his consistency in selection, and it may just be coincidence that the Reds and Chelsea – both of whom are sans European adventures – are currently duking it out for honours domestically. Being able to keep Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino fit, and have options in midfield and at the back in abundance, is clearly linked to a ‘lack’ of football, for want of a better word.
So here we are, 13 gameweeks into the campaign, and Liverpool’s only injury worry is Adam Lallana, who has been laid low with a groin strain picked up on international duty, ironically (and not in the strip club, presumably).
He’s a big loss of course – his game has matured to the extent he is now one of the most enterprising midfielders in the land – but all in all, the queue for the treatment table, which also features fringe players Danny Ings and Sheyi Ojo, is pleasingly short.
Even though his side failed to pick up the three points against the Saints last week, we suspect that Klopp will retain the same starting eleven:
Really, the key here is in determining whether Sunderland really have turned a corner, or this is merely a temporary moment of sanctuary.
The performance against Hull was one of endeavour and grit, rather than quality. That said, it was a moment of quality that ultimately separated the two sides after an hour when Jermain Defoe, as he has done for more than a decade, fashioned a goal out of almost nothing.
Hull created plenty of half chances as they got on top, and the Sunderland faithful were growing restless. Step forward Victor Anichebe, a bustling powerhouse of a centre forward but one who’s goal record up until Saturday read 25 strikes in 189 games. Still, the former Everton man found time to bag a brace – as much a failing on the part of the Hull defence as anything else – and secure a much-needed win for David Moyes.
Still, we can guarantee that Anichebe won’t be afforded the freedom of the 18-yard box against Liverpool, and the Reds will surely do more damage than the Tigers in possession; Mike Phelan’s side had 59% possession and fashioned seven shots on target. A further blow for Sunderland comes in the suspension of Papy Djilibodji, an often hapless defender but one who has rarely missed a match this term.
Liverpool vs Sunderland Betting Tips
W4 D1 L0 GF17 GA4 – that’s Liverpool in league action at Anfield this term, and a good indicator of the size of the task facing Sunderland (W1 D1 L4 GF4 GA8 on the road).
We must also factor in the Black Cats’ record against quality opposition: 1-2 (Manchester City), 0-3 (Everton), 0-1 (Tottenham) and 1-4 (Arsenal) scorelines are fairly self-explanatory.
So, factoring in the absence of Djilibodji in the heart of the Sunderland defence, our first selection for this match will be the Liverpool Win & Over 3.5 Goals market, which is available at 11/10 with Paddy Power and Coral, amongst other bookmakers.
A probable central defensive partnership of Lamine Kone and John O’Shea surely won’t fill the Black Cats faithful with joy; both are capable ‘destroyers’, but lack a sharp turn of pace over two or three yards. That should enable Firmino to find a pocket of space in front of goal – let’s hope he finishes better than he did against Southampton. A quote of 5/6 on him to score anytime is an industry best from bet365 and worthy of investment.
Finally, a couple of correct score opportunities. Let’s Dutch 3-0 and 3-1 at 7/1 and 10/1 respectively.