By Gary Fulcher
Now that another ludicrously timed and highly disruptive international break is over, Liverpool return to Premier League action with a trip to Wearside to face Martin O’Neil’s Sunderland (17.30 kick off UK time) at the Stadium of Light. Both teams have yet to claim maximum points in the league to date, with Liverpool picking up one draw and two defeats from three games, while Sunderland have two draws from their two fixtures.
The Reds face a hectic schedule playing seven times – in three different competitions and three different countries – over a period of 23 days, starting with the Sunderland fixture on Sep 15 and ending at the next international break following our home encounter with Stoke on October 7. How Brendan Rodgers utilises our relatively small squad could prove crucial during this period and the priority has to be on improving our position in the Premier League.
The blockbuster home clash with Manchester Utd on Sep 23 aside, the Reds have a good opportunity to boost our points tally over the next month and a half with league encounters against Norwich, Stoke, Reading and Everton, while we also have a Capital One Cup tie against W.B.A. aswell as Europa League ties against Young Boys, Udinese and Anzhi Makhachkala thrown in for good measure before Halloween arrives.
If Liverpool can pick up close to 15 points from our next seven league games – which is not beyond us – then we should find ourselves in a relatively good position as we head into the final two months of the calendar year.
Liverpool have doubts over Martin Kelly (knock), Jose Enrique (knee), Joe Cole (hamstring) and Oussama Assaidi (groin), while Lucas (thigh) is definitely ruled out.
Sunderland have doubts over Lee Cattermole (dead leg), Wes Brown (knee), Phillip Bardsley (ankle) and Adam Johnson (thigh).
Goalkeepers: Reina, Doni, Jones, Gulacsi
Defenders: Johnson, Kelly, Flanagan, Skrtel, Agger, Coates, Carragher, Enrique, Wilson
Midfielders: Sahin, Gerrard (c), Allen, Henderson, Downing, Shelvey, Sterling
Strikers: Suarez, Borini
Goalkeepers: Mignolet, Westwood, Pickford
Defenders: Bardsley, Cuellar, Rose, Brown, Kilgallon, O’Shea, Bramble, Adams, Egan
Midfielders: Cattermole, Larsson, Gardner, Colback, Vaughan, Meyler, Johnson, McClean, Sessegnon
Strikers: Fletcher, Campbell, Saha, Wickham, Dong-Won, Noble
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