By Christopher Boulay
A very stressful international break for Liverpool and its supporters is now in the books. The emotional rollercoaster started when Liverpool fans complained about winger Raheem Sterling’s call up to the England team, continued with worry about Martin Kelly’s fitness. This all occurred while there was a bitter taste in the mouths’ of many due to a questionable start to the season.
However, these topics proved trivial in the wake of the newly-released report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel. The release not only revealed the truth of what occurred that day – why 96 supporters did not come home from a football match – but it also triggered waves of support and coverage from around the world. The release is just the beginning of the next chapter in both the supporters’ and club’s quest for justice.
In the meantime, there are still matches to be played. Liverpool resumes its Premier League campaign this Saturday against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, still searching for the Reds’ first win.Liverpool has not played since losing at Anfield to Arsenal on September 2, and a lack of match time together could further complicate matters for the side. Going up against Sunderland may prove difficult. This is, in part, due to Liverpool only defeating the Black Cats in one of the previous four meetings.
A midfield with Nuri Sahin, Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard could be what manager Brendan Rodgers decides to run out, especially with the injury to Lucas. However, Sahin’s presence could be beneficial, as the Real Madrid loanee likely needs more minutes to become more comfortable in the squad.
The front line may not look much different from what fans have already seen this season. Sterling received multiple opportunities, and could again this time around. If he does not join the likely pairing of Fabio Borini and Luis Suarez up front, it could be possible to see Oussama Assaidi finally earn his Liverpool debut. Patience will be the main theme with the forwards, as it is apparent there is still some cohesion issues in attack.
Jose Enrique may not be ready for the match, and this could be problematic for the back line, especially if Martin Kelly is also ruled out. Enrique likely will have a fitness test this weekend to see if he is healthy enough. Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson will need to be at their best if the Reds’ are to gain the first win of the season.
Sunderland aims to get their first win this campaign, as well. In the club’s previous match, it was only able to draw Swansea City, and due to pitch issues, the league opener never went forward.
Manager Martin O’Neill has injury struggles, as well. Peter Bardsley and Wes Brown are both trying to work their way back into the squad due to injury. Additionally, Lee Cattermole and new signing Adam Johnson will be looking to be cleared to play by Saturday due to injuries of their own.
American fans can watch the match on Fox Soccer at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Sunderland v Liverpool
When: Saturday, September 15, 1230 EST/1730 GMT
Where: Stadium of Light, Sunderland
Previous Premier League match: Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal, Swansea City 2-2 Sunderland
League Position 2011-12: Liverpool 18th (1 point), Sunderland13th (2 points)
Projected Sunderland Starting 11
DEF: O’Shea, Cuellar, Cattermole, Larsson
MID: Gardner, Colback, Johnson, McLean
FW: Sessegnon, Fletcher
Subs from: Westwood, Kilgallon, Brown, Bramble, Bardsley, Meyler, Elmohamady, Saha, Campbell, Ji Dong-Won
Projected Liverpool Starting 11
DEF: Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Enrique
MID: Gerrard, Allen, Sahin
FW: Sterling, Suarez, Borini
Subs from: Jones, Kelly, Flanagan, Coates, Carragher, Robinson, Allen, Henderson, Sterling, Cole, Downing, Assaidi
Interact: What’s your projected lineup and final score prediction? Comment below.