Sunderland – Liverpool Preview: Rodgers targeting first league win as Reds boss

Still sidelined with knee and ankle problems respectively, Wes Brown and Phil Bardsley will not play a part in this fixture, leaving Craig Gardner to take on defensive duties again.

At the other end of the pitch it’s a tough call for Martin O’Neill. Steven Fletcher is sure to keep his place in the team after scoring two goals against Swansea on his league debut for the Black Cats a fortnight ago, and fellow new arrival Louis Saha could be the man to partner the former Wolves striker up front.

For the visitors, Pepe Reina is set to keep his place in goal despite a somewhat shaky performance against Arsenal in the Reds’ last league fixture. Brendan Rodgers will want to keep a settled back four but could be forced in to a change, however, if Jose Enrique fails to prove his fitness in time.

Elsewhere, fresh from his excursions with the England squad, Raheem Sterling may well form part of an attacking trio which will also include Luis Suarez and Stewart Downing, the former Villa man getting the nod ahead of the so far ineffective Fabio Borini.

Lucas Leiva (thigh) remains a long-term absentee for the Reds.

  • When this fixture was played back in October 2009, Sunderland were somewhat fortunate victors after Darren Bent’s strike deflected off a beachball before finding the back of the net.
  • Despite being one of the best defensive units in the league last season, only one team (QPR) has conceded more than Liverpool so far this season.
  • Only Darren Bent and Kevin Phillips have managed to score more than one Premier League goal against the Reds for Sunderland.
  • Of the last 10 league meetings between these two sides, Sunderland have emerged victorious just twice, with both those wins coming at the Stadium of Light.
  • Martin O’Neill (pictured right) has coached a team 17 times against Liverpool in the Premier League, winning six, drawing six and losing five.
  • The loss to Arsenal a fortnight ago was Liverpool’s 200th defeat in Premier League history.

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