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FAN FOCUS: Zach Marx Talks Sunderland v Liverpool

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Joining us today ahead of the Liverpool home game is Zachary Marx, who writes for our SBNation brethren Liverpool Offside. Make sure you visit their site - liverpooloffside.sbnation.com - and check out @GHSAFC91's Q&A with them by clicking the link here.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

So… tenth in the table heading in to tomorrow's game - would it be fair to say that things haven’t panned out exactly as planned thus far this season or did you foresee in the summer that you’d be up for a turbulent first half of the campaign?

I think the general consensus at TLO Towers was that it was either going to be horribly turbulent, or Rodgers was going to right the ship. Obviously we got the former outcome, but with our struggles last season, it's hard to say that this was unforeseen. My personal feeling is that Fenway Sports Group wanted Klopp this summer, but he was on sabbatical, so they stuck with Rodgers as a caretaker, knowing they could swoop in for Klopp when he was ready to come on board.

Is Jurgen Klopp the right man for the job, or did you think Brendan Rogers was unlucky to lose his position?

Jurgen Klopp is absolutely the right man for the job. The results have been up and down with him in charge so far (as can be reasonably expected), but he has proven that he can consistently produce winning sides at the highest level. And he's been impressive so far, saying the right things and getting the players to show across-the-board improvement, recent form notwithstanding. We've gotten glimpses of what the man is capable of, with impressive and exciting wins away to Chelsea, Manchester City, and Southampton so far. Sure, we've also lost to Newcastle and Watford by a combined five goals, but it's a process.

To your other question, Rodgers was definitely not unlucky. Since nearly winning the title in 2013-14, we had one decent run of form over the middle part of last season, bookended by absolutely dreadful form to start and finish 2014-15. This season saw a continuation of that same dire form, with an anaemic offense and a sieve like defence as hallmarks. Many were perhaps shocked that the change happened after a generally positive away draw to Everton, and that it happened so early in the season, but I think this points to my aforementioned theory that the ownership saw Rodgers as little more than a caretaker to start the season. In short, I think it was going to take a much better start to the campaign for Rodgers to save his job, and we never saw any indication that better play was right around the corner.

Where do you think Liverpool will finish this season? Despite the league position, a good run of victories could take you within touching distance of the top four.

A few weeks ago, I would have said we will challenge for a Champions League spot, but one point from Newcastle, West Brom, and Watford have dimmed my hopes quite a bit. So, probably top six, but as you said a solid run of form could very easily see us back up the table, with everyone except Leicester readily giving away points. That said, Liverpool aren't going anywhere until they learn how to breakdown defensive, deep sitting team. So, probably not top four.

Generally speaking we are usually awful against Liverpool. How do you fancy your chances of coming to the Stadium of Light and picking up a win?

I mean, I'm going to predict a Liverpool win because we'll have to win one of these games we're ‘supposed’ to win one of these days, but given our recent struggles it's hard to predict three points from Liverpool ever. Also, Big Sam seems to take special pleasure in ruining Liverpool's day.

Which Sunderland player would you take if you could choose only one, and why?

Do you have any Jordan Henderson clones?! No?

What are your memories of games against Sunderland in the past?

You want me to talk about the beach ball again, don't you? (GH. – yes.)

How do you fancy Sunderland’s chances of staving off relegation yet again this season?

It's not looking good, is it? Then again, you've become pretty good survival experts over the last several years, so there has to be value in having been through this experience before. The only truly awful team so far has been Aston Villa, so with a good transfer window, or just a couple of key wins Sunderland could climb their way to safety in the second half of the season.

Who do you think is the biggest threat to Sunderland in the Liverpool team ahead of the game?

Philippe Coutinho. If anyone is capable of breaking down the defence, or just creating a moment of magic, it's him. Sunderland would do well to frustrate his attempts at linking up with other Liverpool attackers and force him to shoot from distance. Sure, he sometimes scores worldies, but not terribly often, and especially not on days when he's frustrated and feels like he has no other options in front of him.

Similarly, who in the Sunderland team do you think has the ability to cause problems on the day?

Big Sam. As I said before, Liverpool are always a threat to drop points against deep sitting sides that get men behind the ball. I assume Big Sam will follow this blue print (one he's successfully deployed against us many times in the past) and try to snatch a goal or two on set pieces. And we are terrible at defending set pieces.

Finally – a score prediction, please?

2-1 to Liverpool. Not that I really believe we'll win, but the bad run of form has to end sometime.