One of Liverpool's busiest weeks of the season until December--or FA Cup action in January--wraps up tomorrow, and if it's going to be anything other than disappointing they're going to have get a result. Brendan Rodgers' side have had plenty of opportunities to bounce back from adversity over the past year-plus, and there's a chance to build on the promising showing midweek and push on into October.
And then promptly sit around for two weeks to wait for the international break to be over. It's not as though there's a full head of steam to be interrupted here, with Liverpool winless in their last three after their perfect start to the season, but a result tomorrow and doing what's expected of them against Crystal Palace next weekend at Anfield would be a nice recovery from the pessimism and negativity that's crept its way in these past few weeks.
Sunderland have had a fair bit of that themselves after a terrible start to the season, and they're either lost at sea or rejuvenated by the ousting of Paolo Di Canio. If early returns are any indication it's the latter, as the Kevin Ball-led side won comfortably in the League Cup against Peterborough midweek. It was just their second win of the season, with four losses in league leaving them bottom of the table on a solitary point earned in a goalless draw at Southampton in their second match of the season.
Ball's tenure as interim manager could be over shortly, but tomorrow he'll be tasked with the picking from a squad that's close to full-strength, with only Steven Fletcher (shoulder injury) and Fabio Borini (loan deal) ruled out. Di Canio had relied heavily on new names given the raft of signings the club made over the summer, but Ball opted to go only with Ki Sung-Yeung, Emmanuele Giaccherini, and Jozy Altidore in the win over Peterborough as part of an eleven that's somewhat familiar and likely for tomorrow--Keiren Westwood in goal, Craig Gardner, Jack Colback, John O'Shea, and Carlos Cuellar at the back, Sebastian Larsson and Adam Johnson wide, and Lee Cattermole partnering Ki in midfield with Giaccherini and Altidore in attack.
Toure Skrtel Sakho
Henderson Gerrard Lucas Enrique
Daniel Agger could yet return according to Brendan Rodgers, but Joe Allen's unfortunately a ways away after his hamstring injury proved worse than originally thought. Glen Johnson and Aly Cissokho should be close to action over the coming weeks, Philippe Coutinho continues to rehab in hopes of a late October return, and Sebastian Coates remains the only long-standing injury in the squad.
Both formation and performance proved positive at Old Trafford, and I'd be surprised if Brendan Rodgers opted to change things too much. Agger could see a return, but otherwise I'm guessing we get the same setup as against Manchester United, with Kolo Toure, Martin Skrtel, and Mamadou Sakho operating as the three at the back in front of Simon Mignolet in goal. Each of the three central defenders were very good midweek, and each deserve another start tomorrow.
That leaves Jordan Henderson and Jose Enrique in wingback roles; both impressed on Wednesday night, with Enrique's inattention the only setback from what were otherwise roundly excellent displays. The only change I could see here is if Rodgers makes the bold choice to drop one of Steven Gerrard or Lucas in central midfield and push Henderson centrally, in which case Andre Wisdom, Raheem Sterling, or possibly Tiago Ilori come in on the right. We know that's not going to happen, though.
Up front it appears to be the same as well, with Rodgers asserting that there's no way Daniel Sturridge is given rest despite nearly turning into dust late in the match against United. Luis Suarez and Victor Moses look the likely supports, with Iago Aspas now buried underneath two undroppable strikers and the Chelsea loanee. Sterling and Jordon Ibe will join Aspas and Luis Alberto as the attacking contingent on the bench.
Kickoff tomorrow is set for 4:00PM BST/11:00AM EST, and Sky Sports 1 will air the match live in England with NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra carrying coverage in the US. We'll have the matchday thread up early tomorrow following the overnight thread tonight, and team sheets will be included around an hour or so before kickoff. Hope you'll be around to join us.