Sunderland will need to be wary of the tedious yet talented Suarez tomorrow afternoon
Well how about that, we've finally got a match to preview! Enough of that International bollocks, let's get back to the bread and butter if you will. Sunderland fans will be champing at the bit such has been the anticipation for the first home league of the season following the Reading washout. Liverpool fans will also be looking forward to getting back to business following an emotionally taxing week, so a cracking atmosphere should be guaranteed for the ESPN cameras.
So I suppose you'll be looking for team news, predicted line-ups, key matchups, that kind of thing? Well you're in luck my friend!
Sunderland Team News
Adam Johnson became the latest "injury worry" for the Black Cats a week ago when he was withdrawn from the England squad with a thigh injury. I'm sure I wasn't the only one however that raised a wry smile at the sight of finally seeing a Sunderland player "do a Gerrard" and pull out of the England squad through injury. Or maybe I'm just being cynical. Either way, Johnson completed a light training session on Wednesday before being put through his paces with the rest of the squad yesterday - it is expected that he will be fit to make the starting eleven tomorrow afternoon.
Elsewhere loanee Danny Rose may well be set to make his Sunderland debut. The young Spurs leftback received a glowing report from Stuart Pearce following his performances for the Under 21's, both on the field and during training this week and O'Neill may well see this as the ideal preparation to ready his new recruit for selection.
David Vaughan is also expected to be available for selection having returned to full training having missed the majority of pre-season recovering from two hernia operations. However given the Welshman's lack of match practice it would be a huge surprise to see him make tomorrow's starting lineup - a place on the bench seems most likely.
Stephane Sessegnon was spared a trip to Egypt late last week as Benin's friendly against Egypt was cancelled, so the little wizard should be well rested and raring to go.
Elsewhere it is very much as you were.
Liverpool Team News
Liverpool have a handful of injury worries going in to this weekend's game as Martin Kelly is struggling for match fitness having taken a knock, Jose Enrique has been suffering with a knee injury but is expected to make the starting eleven while Joe Cole, Oussama Assaidi and Lucas are ruled out with hamstring, groin and thigh issues respectively.
Raheem Sterling would appear to be the interesting one to watch in Rodgers' team selection this week. Having impressed so far this season in his two appearances and following a surprise call up to the England squad the young winger will be hopeful of keeping his place in the starting eleven although Stewart Downing will be hopeful of a return to action.
Sunderland: Mignolet, Gardner, O'Shea, Cuellar, Rose, Johnson, Cattermole, Colback, McClean, Sessegnon, Fletcher
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Enrique, Gerrard, Sahin, Allen, Borini, Suarez, Sterling
Key Matchup: Jose Enrique vs Adam Johnson
It should come as no secret to Brendan Rodgers that Sunderland will look to get the ball to the feet of their new attacking outlet as often as possible such is his ability to create havoc for the opposition defence - leftback in particular. Therefore much will be required from Jose Enrique to shut down Sunderland's tricky winger and whilst the Spaniard has began to regain some form following his poor end to last season you would still predict the left back may well be in for a busy afternoon.
Recent Form: LWDDL
Loss: West Brom 3-0 Liverpool (Gera 43, Odemwingie 64, Lukaku 77)
Win: Hearts 0-1 Liverpool (Webster OG 78)
Draw: Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City (Skrtel 34, Suarez 66; Toure 63, Tevez 80)
Draw: Liverpool 1-1 Hearts (Suarez 88; Templeton 85)
Loss: Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal (Podolski 31, Carzola 68)
Last Time Around: Sunderland 1-0 Liverpool, 10/03/12
Sunderland took full advantage of a stuttering Liverpool who despite winning the Carling Cup two weeks before this game had managed just one league win from their last eight fixtures. It was a resolute and gritty performance from the homeside, who missing numerous key players, in a game which was a bit of a scrappy affair - especially the first half.
The game was decided by a fluke of a goal. Not quite on the scale of the beach ball incident two seasons previous, but when Fraizer Campbell's shot cannoned off the post and onto the back of Reina's head before ricocheting back again onto the post and into the path of Nicklas Bendtner to slot home there was a slight feeling of de ja vu given the bizarre nature of the goal.
Having taken the lead Sunderland were able to fight-off Liverpool's response and hold out for a hard fought victory and move up to eighth in the league.
The Ref: Martin Atkinson
The much maligned Martin Atkinson has been appointed the referee in charge of Saturday's clash. Atkinson has handed out thirteen yellow cards in his three previous Premier League games he has officiated so far this term, six of which came during the Swansea vs West Ham game a couple of weeks back. The 41 year old is yet to hand out a red card, either via two yellows or a straight sending off but he has awarded three penalties already this season. So here's hoping one goes in our favour whilst the man from Bradford is feeling so generous.
What The Managers Said
It's become our first home league fixture, and what a fixture. I'm looking forward to it and I'm sure the crowd are as well.
I obviously want to see us attack, and I think we're capable of doing that now. In Johnson we have a player who can take people on. Add that to a fitter Stephane Sessegnon and Steven Fletcher and, if those players stay fit, we have some attacking options I don't think we possessed last season.
(When asked about the physically imposing threat Sunderland will pose on Saturday)
it doesn't matter how big or small a player is. The game for me with the ball. I like them to have a good level of technical ability but I like them to have the desire and the will when they haven't got the ball. In our last game against Arsenal, apart from Abou Diaby the two best players on the ball were Joe Allen and Cazorla, both of them small but very technical on the ball. That kind of player is the type we will look for in the future.
Roker Report Predicts
Liverpool will be keen to reward their fans with both a good performance but most importantly a first victory of the season after what has been a tough week for all concerned with the football club. However Martin O'Neill will be keen to ensure his side are no pushovers and an entertaining if hard-fought encounter is on the cards.
Despite Liverpool's poor start to the season they still have a number of fantastic players who can cause the homeside a number of problems, especially Luis Suarez if the despicable arse remembers to pack his shooting boots this week.
That said Sunderland themselves carry a number of attacking threats this season in the shape of James McClean, Stephane Sessegnon, Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher leading the line. You have to feel that this Sunderland side is setup perfectly to catch the opposition out with a swift counter attack.
After speaking with Paul Tomkins during the week for our Fan Focus feature I was certainly buoyed by the negativity of a Liverpool fan going into this game and as such my own confidence was given a significant boost, encouraging me to upgrade my original prediction earlier in the week of a draw to a win for the Black Cats.
I'm going for a 2-1 home win.
Ha'way the lads!