Oooooh it's been a while since I got to do one of these! Not sure if it's good or bad, but thanks first of all to David Boylefor his sterling efforts in charge of previews over the summer.
However, its now up to my previewing skills, and unlike last year, we're hopeful that it's not quite as rambling. Also this years previews will include snippets of old features such as Roker Riches and Roker Relives, as we're not doing them properly this season apart from maybe the odd special edition.
Ok, before I waffle on much further, let's get down to business...
Sunderland Team News
Starting out with the formation, anyone who's watched pre-season and thinks we'll play anything other than a 4-4-1-1 formation would be a fool (or a genius if we go away from it) as that's what we've been doing. This also makes the starting line-up fairly easy to predict (queue me getting it spectacularly wrong).
In goal, it looks as though despite concerns about the arriving Keiren Westwood, Simon Mignolet has held on to the first team shirt having featured in the previous weeks ahead of the Irishman.
Across the defence there is healthy competition for places, and whilst we're not entirely sure what it will be, I'd wager it's the same which started against Hartlepool and Hibernian - Phil Bardsley at right-back, Wes Brown being partnered by Anton Ferdinand with Kieran Richardson at left-back. Kieran's got a niggle picked up at Hibernian, but so far there's little news. No news is good news to me. The game comes too soon for John O'Shea to make a comeback from injury.
Into midfield, it looks like a flat four of Sebastian Larsson, Lee Cattermole and Craig Gardner, whilst Jack Colback is charged with manning the left wing. As speculated by us in Talking Tactics, and on the Podcast, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, as we need to stop the flow to Andy Carroll one way or another, and Colback can certainly put a good shift in on whoever lines up on their right.
Up front, you'd better get used to this - It's Sessegnon in a free role behind Gyan. Something I agree with as it should get the best out of both players.
No staring place for Connor Wickham, David Vaughan or Ji Dong-Won, but expect them to pack out a fairly strong bench. I'd envisage penalty-giving-away-machine Titus Bramble and Michael Turner also join them on the bench, as Liverpool are a tricky team with the ball at feet. Something neither of those two are particularly great at dealing with.
Liverpool Team News
Liverpool's back line will take a familiar shape we're thinking. Pepe Reina in goal, with the four in front of him being Fabio Aurelio (should Jose Enrique not be signed), Sky Pundit and occasional footballer Jamie Carragher will line-up alongside Daniel Agger in the heart of defence, whilst the promising Martin Kelly slots in at right-back.
Into midfield where Liverpool have brought in an abundance of talent to compliment what they already had. I see Charlie Adam in the "Gerrard Role" with the man himself being sidelined with a "groin infection" which we won't speculate on further... So the rest of the midfield should see Adam partnered by Lucas Leiva, who quietly impressed many last year.
In front of those two, look for Stewart Downing, Luis Suarez and/or Dirk Kuyt to be busy supporting Andy Carroll and trying to latch on to any knock downs. Should Suarez not make it, Alberto Aquilani should take the spot having featured in recent Liverpool friendlies. Knock downs however, are my big worry come Saturday - we need to either stop the ball into Carroll in the first place, or make sure we're first to any Carroll wins. I'd wager we'd have better luck with the first option, and Jack Colback will have his hands full. We've just got to hope Cattermole sticks manfully to Suarez/Aquilani and Bardsley similarly to Downing.
One would imagine the game comes a little soon for Jordan Henderson. A huge price-tag, first home game, against his old club, and a shortened summer due to the U21 Championships, I'd expect him to be on the bench, only to appear when the game is said and done.
Mignolet; Bardsley, Ferdinand, Brown, Richardson; Larsson, Cattermole, Gardner, Colback; Sessegnon; Gyan.
Ok, so this is what Roker Relives used to be, and we're just going to take a slightly shorter trip down memory lane. This week, all the way back to the 1980/81 season, where Stan Cummins goal gave us a 1-0 win over Liverpool and secured our place in the league for the next season. Rumor has it Bob Paisley, born in Hetton-Le-Hole sent a bottle of champagne to the Sunderland dressing room after the game... we'll say no more, other than thanks Bob!
Get Rich Quick
Yup, you guessed it, this is formerly Roker Riches. Hopefully in it's new home it will bring luck, as whilst we had some astonishing winners last year (including a 125/1 shot) there was also many, many, rubbish one's. With that in mind our top bet of the weekend is Stephane Sessegnon scoring first in a 1-1 draw. You can get that at 66/1 over at BetFred.
Song For Whoever
This is new, and it involves YOU (hey, that rhymed!)... What we're looking for each week is for you the Roker Report reader to get involved and suggest a song which sums up your feelings headed into the game. Tell us what it is on our Twitter account and we will give you a nice shout-out here!
So the first to nominate a Song For Whoever is Graeme, unsure of the surname, but he's @graeme86ftm on Twitter (so get him followed) who nominates the one and only choice really... Ready To Go by Republica. To put it in the words of Graeme himself "Hairs on the back of me neck stand up when I hear that!"... here you go everyone, get in the mood...
And so we come to the end, and here's my prediction for the game. I'll be honest, nerves of the season have well and truly set in, and I'm not that confident about us getting anything from the game. That said, we have the ability to shock, and our signings should be fairly bedded in by now. I'm going for a surprising 1-1. Stephane Sessegnon to open the scoring before an Andy Carroll equaliser and an onslaught of pressure. I'm hoping with the likes of Brown in the backline we can hold on.
For more build up to the game, check out this weeks Fan Focus with Paul Tomkins of The Tomkins Times (LINK) and Talking Tactics (LINK). Why not give The Roker Report Podcast a listen too, where we talk about the game at length (LINK TO SUBSCRIBE).