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How Liverpool Could Line Up for Sunderland Trip

Liverpool return to Premier League action early Saturday afternoon, when they take on Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Ben Twelves takes a look at the team selection options ahead of the clash.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 6, 2014: Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers prepares to bring on substitute captain Steven Gerrard against Sunderland during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool resume Premier League duties on Saturday after a week break for the FA Cup third round, with the Reds travelling to Sunderland for the weekends early kick off.

Liverpool will be focussing on reigniting their challenge for a top four finish in the second half of the season after surrendering a two goal lead to draw against Leicester at Anfield last time out – dropping two valuable points as a result – which has left Rodgers’ side trailing fourth place by seven points as they missed the chance to close the gap on those around them.

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, New Year's Day, January 1, 2015: Liverpool's goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is beaten as Leicester City's Jeff Schlupp scores the second goal against during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Reds are enduring another busy month with fixtures coming thick and fast, but Liverpool must take full advantage of the next three winnable league fixtures, ahead of an extremely tough February in which Rodgers’ men play the second derby clash of the season, Tottenham, Southampton and Europa League fixtures, before opening March against title holders Manchester City.

But before those fixtures, the Rodgers and his team still have five games to play this month, beginning with the trip to the north east to take on Gus Poyet’s side, and the Liverpool boss could make a number of changes to his side from the XI that overcome AFC Wimbledon on Monday night.


The Team

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 17, 2014: Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge in action against Southampton during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)


Positive news is that Daniel Sturridge is nearing a return to fitness after almost five months out as he enters the final part of his rehabilitation, as revealed by Rodgers, but the Reds could be without a number of players for the trip including Brad Jones, Dejan Lovren, Glen Johnson, Joe Allen, Adam Lallana and Javier Manquillo, who suffered an ankle injury in Monday’s FA Cup success and limped off when withdrawn in the second half.

Reports earlier this week that suggested Steven Gerrard flew to the US to tie up the deal that will see him join LA Galaxy upon the expiration of his Liverpool contract proved to be inaccurate, due to the close proximity between fixtures this week, but after completing 90 minutes on Monday night, Gerrard could drop back to the bench on Saturday.

Jordan Henderson – the likeliest candidate to take over the captain’s armband when the current skipper departs – could lead the Reds on return to his former club if Gerrard makes way, and Lucas Leiva could keep his place alongside the current vice-captain for the third time in four matches.

Lallana’s absence could mean a move into a more natural attacking position for Lazar Markovic, who has played predominantly as a wing-back in the 3-4-2-1 system deployed in recent games, and the Serbian could join Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling, with Alberto Moreno resuming the left-wing back position.

Sterling was given a much needed rest this week as he was left out of the Wimbledon cup tie and allowed the week off, but the 20-year-old is set to return to the squad after the welcome break and he is likely to continue his role in leading the Liverpool attack.


The Line Up

With little other option, Mignolet is set to continue in goal for the return to his old club and the back three ahead of the Belgian could retain a familiar look, but it’s in midfield and attack that should see changes made.

Markovic should switch sides to the right to accommodate Moreno’s inclusion on the left either side of Henderson and Lucas, and Rickie Lambert has to make way after a dismal showing against Wimbledon, with Sterling the obvious replacement to join Gerrard and Coutinho in a three man forward line.

Those adjustments should see Liverpool line up like this at the Stadium of Light:

Sunderland line up

Another – albeit unlikely – alternative with squad depth low due to injuries could see Emre Can make way after constant inclusion in recent games and Gerrard rested after his FA Cup exploits, with Kolo Toure and Mario Balotelli coming back into the side joining the creative duo of Coutinho and Sterling.

That could see Liverpool’s starting XI look like this come kick-off time:

Sunderland line up 2

UPDATE: The rumoured / leaked lineup has Borini up front, with Sterling not in the squad and still on holiday for an extended rest.

If Liverpool have any genuine ambitions to battle for a top four place in a difficult second half of the season, it is vitally important Rodgers’ side bounce back with maximum points on Saturday afternoon after a sloppy display and result against Leicester on New Years’ Day.

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