After two straight wins in the league the Liverpool players are talking about keeping the momentum going and high confidence in the group. My advice would be to keep quiet and talk after something noteworthy has been achieved, for instance going ten games on the trot without defeat. In other words, I´m scared to death ahead of the home clash with Sunderland at Anfield this afternoon.
To be over-confident is always a guaranteed route to failure. The best way to approach sport challenges is to be humble. So Liverpool players and staff should only be saying: Sunderland is a really good team and will be hard to beat. But we will do all we can to grab the three points. That´s enough. You don´t have to brag about, or even mention, what has been done in recent matches, it counts for nothing now.
Within the group you can speak more freely about matches and opponents. But regardless of that every game should always be treated as a cup final. If Liverpool doesn´t give 100 percent physically and mentally then it´s a high risk of points dropped. Against any team at this level.
Despite this reservations Liverpool should defeat Sunderland. The Reds are the superior side, in better form and playing at home. The wins against Stoke and Leicester has shown slight improvements in every aspect of our play. Not much, but detectable. Our defence has been shaky all season and the attack not particularly dangerous. But it seems to be on the mend.
It´s much worse for Sunderland. While the Reds has 19 goals scored and conceded, Sunderland has only scored 13 and let in 23. So versus such goal-shy team we should be able to record our fourth clean sheet in the league. Especially as Sunderland doens´t create much either. At the same time two goals is minimun requirement against this kind of defence.
I am bit wary of how Liverpool will and should tackle this game. Is pulling out all the stops from the off the solution or is a better strategy to slowly but surely break down the resistence? Or to put it in other terms: Should we attack intensively from the start, throwing people forward and leave ourselves vulnerable for counter-attacks? Or should we keep the ball, be patient and trying to make the opposition finally leave gaps to exploit but at the same time with this kind of cautious football risking not finding the necessary holes to pip into and score?
A tough one. My solution is always to be bold and attack. A narrow 1-0 win such as the one against Stoke could easily end upp in a stalemate instead. And it doesn´t give a team so much confidence. A 5-3 win on the other hand proves that you can score and if if the opposition scores you know you can score more. And to find the net five times is always a big boost.
Whatever tactics chosen Liverpool must perform to their best to break down Sunderland. The Black Cats lost 0-8 to Southampton in October and after that they have tightened their defence. They recently kept a clean sheet versus Chelsea and Everton could only score once. Okay, Sunderland let in four against Manchester City in the last match but that will only give them more incentive to shut up shop this time.
Liverpool has found it a wee bit easier to find the net in the last month than before. Six goals in the last three games is not so bad, considering. Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson, Rickie Lambert and Steven Gerrard has got themselves on the score-sheet and hopefully the trend can be kept. And other players shipping in aswell, especially Raheem Sterling need to put the ball in the net to really be back to his fearsome best.
Statistically Liverpool has a large upper hand. We have gone 17 straight games at Anfield without losing to Sunderland. It contains ten wins and seven draws. Last time the north-east team won at L4 was 1983 and last season Liverpool recorded a 2-1 win with Gerrard an Daniel Sturridge scoring. A repeat is good enough for me. But preferrably a clean sheet and three at the other end to really stamp our authority and keep fans from being nervous wrecks.
So, I would be really disappointed if Liverpool doesn´t make it three in a row in a few hours. Everything is perfectly set for a welcome victory.
This is the team I believe should start: GK: Brad Jones. RB: Glen Johnson. CB: Martin Skrtel. CB: Kolo Toure. LB: José Enrique. DM: Lucas Leiva. RM: Raheem Sterling. CM: Steven Gerrard. LM: Adam Lallana. AM: Philippe Coutinho. CF: Rickie Lambert.
It´s not my favourite line-up but right now the most appropriate. Brad Jones is worth a chance since Simon Mignolet has blown his, and they have been many. Both Johnson and Enrique are in the long term destined to be replaced by Javier Manquillo nad Alberto Moreno but the Spanish kids need a rest at the moment to charge the mental batteries.
Lambert has scored a couple in recent times and because of that he shoud start ahead of Fabio Borini. Hopefully Coutinho has shaken off a slight knock and is ready. We need the quick and creative trio of Lallana, Sterling and Coutinho on the pitch to penetrate the visiting defence.
Well, nothing more to cover than:
We Go Again.