Sunderland (a) Preview

Liverpool’s Premier League season kicks off at the Stadium of Light as they face Sunderland in the early evening match on the opening day of the 2008/09 season.

Captain Steven Gerrard has been passed fit as the Reds look to begin the season on the right note, and improve on their poor showing in Belgium on Wednesday. Gerrard has recovered from a thigh injury sustained in pre-season which limited to a sub appearance against Standard Liege.

In this corresponding fixture last season, Liverpool ran out 2-0 winners courtesy of goals from Momo Sissoko and Andriy Voronin. It was a match which saw Voronin and Fernando Torres link up well but they are unlikely to start together on Saturday, with Torres set to line-up alongside Liverpool’s biggest summer addition, Robbie Keane.

Another summer signing set to start in the North East is Italian left back Andrea Dossena.

Roy Keane is without Sunderland‘s player of the year last season, Kenwyne Jones, but a familiar face will make his debut for the Wearsiders. Former Liverpool striker El Hadji Diouf will make his Black Cats debut after moving from Bolton this summer. Fellow summer signing Pascal Chimbonda is also set to start, as could Steed Malbranque and Teemu Tainio.

Rafa Benitez anticipates a tough match after the disappointing show in midweek; “We need to change our mentality quickly for the Premier League opener. Facing Sunderland away will be a very tough game, they have strengthened their squad and are always difficult on their own ground.”

Likely Liverpool Team: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Dossena, Kuyt, Alonso, Gerrard, Benayoun, Keane, Torres.
Possible Sunderland Team: Gordon, Bardsley, Nosworthy, Higgingbotham, Collins, Diouf, Malbranque, Richardson, Tainio, Reid, Murphy.

Last Five Meetings
Liverpool 3 Sunderland 0 (February 2008); Sunderland 0 Liverpool 2 (August 2007); Sunderland 0 Liverpool 2 (November 2005); Liverpool 1 Sunderland 0 (August 2005); Sunderland 2 Liverpool 1 (December 2002)

The match is live on Setanta Sports (5:30pm kick off).