Preview: First League Game Since Di Canio Departure

Ross Kinnaird

After winning his first game in his second spell as Caretaker Manager, Kevin Ball takes charge of his first Premier League game in over 7 years as Liverpool come to town.

Sunderland Team News

Kevin Ball went back to basics in the game against Peterborough, with only three of the new arrivals starting and the back four changed to a defence where everyone speaks English. That change paid off as the team kept a clean sheet and were rarely threatened, so we expect an unchanged team from the one that secured our passage through to the fourth round of the Capital One Cup.

With Fabio Borini ineligible to face his parent club and Steven Fletcher out for the foreseeable future after suffering a dislocated shoulder against West Brom, Jozy Altidore is expected to lead the line once again. He should be supported by Emanuele Giaccherini, who looked sharper against Peterborough in a more central, attacking role.

Liverpool Team News

Luis Suarez should make his Premier League return at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, where he will partner Daniel Sturridge in attack. With Philippe Coutinho injured, Victor Moses should complete the front three.

Kolo Toure is likely to continue at right back with Glen Johnson unlikely to be fit in time and Martin Kelly's lack of match fitness. Daniel Agger is a doubt after he hurt his side attempting to stop a dumbbell falling on his foot, which caused him to miss the Manchester United game, that should see Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho continue in central defence.

Meanwhile, Simon Mignolet and Jordan Henderson are both expected to make starting returns, with this game marking Mignolet's first return to Wearside since he left for Anfield.

Predicted Lineups

Sunderland vs Liverpool - Football tactics and formations

Sunderland: Westwood; Gardner, O'Shea, Cuellar, Colback; Johnson, Cattermole, Ki, Larsson; Giaccherini; Altidore

Liverpool: Mignolet; Toure, Skrtel, Sakho, Enrique; Henderson, Gerrard, Lucas, Moses; Sturridge, Suarez

Key Matchup: Carlos Cuellar Vs Luis Suarez

Much will be made of Luis Suarez's Premier League return but the task of stopping him looks like it will fall to another player making a Premier League return in Carlos Cuellar.

Cuellar, who fell out of favour under Paolo Di Canio, returned to the side against Peterborough and likely did enough to retain his place. He will need to be at his best to stop the controversial Uruguayan who will be chomping at the bit.

Although that matchup is likely to send shivers down the spines of the majority of the Sunderland support, Suarez looked particularly rusty against Manchester United and we can hope that we face him while he's still finding his feet after his lengthy, enforced absence.

Recent Form: WWWDLL

25/9/2013: Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool (Hernandez 46)

21/9/2013: Liverpool 0-1 Southampton (Lovren 53)

16/9/2013: Swansea 2-2 Liverpool (Shelvey 2, Michu 64; Sturridge 4, Moses 36)

1/9/2013: Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United (Sturridge 4)

27/8/2013: Liverpool 4-2 Notts County (Sterling 4, Sturridge, 29, 105, Henderson 110; Arquin 62, Coombes 84)

24/8/2013: Aston Villa 0-1 Liverpool (Sturridge 21)

The Ref: Howard Webb

Howard Webb will be in charge of Liverpool's visit to Wearside, supposedly the country's top referee but his last outing in a Sunderland game was in our famous 3-0 win at Newcastle.

That day he was dreadful, with numerous bad decisions and he had such an all-round stinker that he was promptly demoted to League One for his next match as punishment.

He has been lenient so far this season, with only 13 yellow cards issued in 6 games and he has yet to send anyone off in 2013/14.

Last Time Around: Sunderland 1-1 Liverpool, 15/9/2012

Last time we played Liverpool at home was a little over a year ago. Steven Fletcher gave us a first half lead but Luis Suarez scored with 19 minutes to go to see the points shared.

In what was a tight affair, Fletcher's goal came somewhat against the run of play but without Liverpool really threatening and Raheem Sterling gave, the usually solid, Danny Rose the runaround in the second half and set-up Suarez to side foot past Simon Mignolet at the second attempt.

From that starting line-ups that day, one player from each side has switched club, with Borini joining Sunderland on-loan and Simon Mignolet completing a big money move to Liverpool.

What The Managers Said

Kevin Ball

From Liverpool's point of view, their objectives for the season are there for all to see.

We know what to expect and it's up to us to counteract that and impose ourselves on the game.

I've always said to players - just give me 100% of what you can do. They will often surprise themselves with what they can achieve.

The biggest thing is pushing yourself, then hopefully the game comes easier. They know what they need to do and put in - they don't need me as a coach telling them that.

Brendan Rodgers

It's only natural (to be rusty). I think sometimes you get games where you come back and that adrenalin gets you over the line in the first game and then probably for maybe a few games after that you start to feel it a wee bit.

But he's [Suarez] a fighter, his determination is so high he'll recover now and then get ready for the weekend.

Roker Report Predicts

Although this will be a difficult game against opponents who will be desperate to get back to winning ways after letting their early season form slip, I expect the team to respond after being let off the leash somewhat after the departure of Di Canio.

With that in mind, I think we can expect another 1-1 home draw with Liverpool and after the turmoil of the last week, that would be an acceptable, if not particularly satisfying, result.

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