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Fan Focus: This Is Anfield Have A Bad Feeling!

We’re not quite sure why, but Henry Jackson of This Is Anfield isn’t confident ahead of tomorrow’s match at the Stadium of Light. Speaking to Rory, Henry gives his thoughts on the upcoming game, the relegation battle and what kind of impact losing Sadio Mane to the African Cup of Nations could have on Liverpool's fortunes.

RF: You're six points behind Chelsea in second place. Do you think you can topple Antonio Conte's men and be this season's champions?

HJ: It's going to be difficult given their current form. They just look so strong at both ends of the pitch, and they have now built a winning mentality that can be priceless in a title race. Liverpool and the others at the top desperately need this winning run to end as soon as possible.

There is a very long way to go, though, and if Liverpool can stay a similar amount of points behind by the time Chelsea come to Anfield on January 31st, who knows!

They have so much experience that it's hard to see them not winning it, but I believe we are every bit as good on our day, and are the most likely team to finish second.

RF: The goalkeeping situation at Liverpool has certainly taken up some column inches over the last few weeks. What's your view on Loris Karius? Do you think he's been given some unfair treatment?

HJ: I was a staunch defender of Loris Karius, partly because Simon Mignolet has done my head in over the years, but in hindsight, Jurgen Klopp made the right decision dropping him.

He was making key errors, most notably against Bournemouth and West Ham, and excellent Liverpool performances were being ruined because of him. That being said, some of the reaction was embarrassing, considering he was voted second best goalkeeper in the Bundesliga last season, and he is still a very young. Klopp bought him for a reason, and hopefully this time out of the spotlight will benefit him. Fans have no patience nowadays, unfortunately.

A word of praise for Mignolet, by the way, who has generally been good since returning, even though he should have done better for Jon Walters' goal against Stoke.

RF: How big an impact will losing Sadio Mane to the African Cup Of Nations have on the team?

HJ: I'm worried about him not being around. He has been a magnificent signing, scoring and assisting at a relentless rate and adding an extra dimension to our attack. Even when he's having a bad game, he looks dangerous, with his pace, in particular, devastating.

I'm hoping Klopp will bring in a speedy wide player in January - Dutch forward Quincy Promes has been strongly linked with a move - in order to fill the void Mane will leave. Klopp will only sign someone as a long-term investment, though, rather than as a short-term fix.

I was skeptical when Liverpool spent so much on Mane in the summer, but he has been a revelation, and has to be one of the first three or four names on the team-sheet now.

The sooner Senegal crash out of the Africa Cup of Nations, the better!

RF: From a neutral perspective, how do you see the relegation battle going this season?

HJ: It's very interesting. At one point, I thought Sunderland looked doomed, but they have recovered relatively well in the last month or so. That said, I think they will be right in the mix, once again. If you lose Jermain Defoe, that would spell big trouble.

Personally, I think Hull City are certainties to go down - they just look like a Championship side, basically - and Swansea City must make a good managerial appointment if they are to have any chance of survival.

The likes of Leicester City, Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace all have enough quality to steer clear of the relegation zone, but Burnley will be in and around it. It could come down to you or them for that third relegation place, with Hull and Swansea joining.

RF: We mentioned Mane earlier but who else is in good form at the moment that Sunderland fans should be worried about?

Without question, the star man at the moment is Adam Lallana. He is in magnificent form, and has to go down as one of the most improved players I've ever seen at Liverpool.

In the summer, I was happy to see him used as a squad player, but Klopp has deployed him in a more central role and he has been a revelation. Without him, the Reds are a very different side, and I think he is fairly comfortably England's best player right now.

Former Sunderland man Jordan Henderson is having a brilliant season in a deeper midfield role, Roberto Firmino is a wonderful player who can always produce some magic and ex-Magpie Georginio Wijnaldum is a personal favourite. He is just so intelligent in everything he does, and is a completely different footballer to the one I was expecting when he joined in the summer.

I would like to see Daniel Sturridge start ahead of Divock Origi - the Belgian is another who deserves praise for his recent form - and I think that may happen because of the game coming so soon after the Man City match.

RF: I suppose it's hard to guess the line up given the quick turnaround but how do you think Klopp will line you up and what will the approach be?

HJ: I think because the FA Cup clash with Plymouth Argyle will allow Klopp to play a second-string team, he may take a risk and field a fairly similar side to the one that started against City. With Joel Matip and Philippe Coutinho both out injured, he doesn't have a huge amount of options anyway.

I would expect Alberto Moreno to be given a chance ahead of James Milner at left-back, Emre Can to come into midfield and Sturridge to start up front, but there may not be many other changes.

Youngsters Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ovie Ejaria could start ahead of Nathaniel Clyne or Wijnaldum/Lallana, respectively, but that would still surprise me. Young centre-back Joe Gomez could also come in, and he is definitely one to watch. Again, though, that is unlikely to happen, in my opinion.

RF: Finally, a prediction please?

HJ: I actually don't like the feel of this game - there is just something niggling away at me about it. Moyes always loves getting one over on Liverpool too, which is adding to my nerves.

I don't expect it to be a game of high quality, due to both sides' excursions on New Year's Eve, and if Sunderland score first, it could be one of those games where we struggle to break you down. It is a massive test of where this Liverpool side is at, in terms of squad depth and grinding out wins.

If the match arrived under normal circumstances I'd expect us to win about 3-1, but I'm going to say 1-1, with Sturridge and Defoe getting the goals.


You can check out This Is Anfield on their website, and be sure to follow Henry on Twitter.