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Makem Meeting Place: The Roker Report
I'm trying to remember a time when Liverpool have come off a disappointing European performance and then played well days later. Can't judge anything in the Hodgson era, it was all disappointing. After the statistics class at 8am that was the entire tie against Sparta, Liverpool were overrun at West Ham. It's hard to find a lot of things that will drum up hope for a good performance at Sunderland tomorrow morning. Sure, Suarez returns, but he also was playing against West Ham, and that didn't keep the rest of the team from looking like tye-dyed dogshit.
A guess at the lineup would probably see a return of Daniel Agger as well as Suarez, and you could make an argument that's even more important. Liverpool actually try and play the sport when Agger is around to distribute from the back, instead of the Angry Birds reenactment that Skrtel and especially Carragher put us through. With the pace of Gyan and Welbeck, one would doubt we'd see Menelaus in the lineup, unless Kenny feels like having his balls in his throat for a full 90. Let's go with a backline of Carragher-Agger-Skrtel-Johnson, as I doubt Danny Wilson gets another shot at a tough venue, and there aren't many other choices.
Midfield? Well, I know Lucas and Meireles will be there. But at least one of the axis of uselessness that Maxi and Joe Cole form are probably going to have to start, and probably both. Unless Carroll is fit to start again in four days, which I doubt he is, you could have a midfield three of Lucas-Meireles-Spearing and then an attacking troika of Suarez-Carroll-Kuyt. But if Carroll can only come off the bench, likely Meireles gets a free role from the right with one of the Useless Twins on the left and Kuyt and Suarez up top together. That's the best I can guess.
However, if there's a team you want to be visiting after soiling yourself out of Europe, than this Sunderland team just might be it. They have two wins in the calendar year of 2011. They did manage to grab a point last time out at The Emirates, however that was due to more hilariously abstract Arsenal finishing than anything else, with a dash of a blinded referee. Before that the last points they collected was on January 22nd.
Lee Cattermole should return for the Black Cats to give the midfield more steel. Asamoah Gyan is always a threat, especially against a paceless Liverpool defense if Agger doesn't go. Nedem Onouha has been a real find at a fullback spot, but I'll take some convincing that a backline containing one Titus Bramble can't be breached. Sully Mutari isn't to be fucked with much in the midfield either. If he and Cattermole go together than Lucas is probably going to need some bandages when this is over.
A real slog looks likely here. Liverpool have only displayed anything close to coherence against United, and that was one game in a month. Sunderland have the air raid sirens going and will be desperate to not lose again. Getting an early goal would be so huge, as it might get into their heads. But the longer this remains 0-0, one gets the feeling that Sunderland will want to keep it there, and Liverpool might not have enough zip without Gerrard to break down a team that's set out to stall you. If Sunderland score early, then it could be an even bigger slog.