With fourteen games to go, Liverpool must face the reality of being an outsider for a sixth-placed spot in the Premier League. Leicester City, Manchester City, Tottenham, and Arsenal will not be caught. Manchester United probably won't either for all the failings present within Louis van Gaal's squad. West Ham lie in sixth spot, five points ahead of the Reds with a far superior goal difference that creates the need for a six-point swing to take sixth. Southampton, Stoke City, Watford, and Everton are Liverpool's Premier League chums right now.
The away loss to Leicester City was sobering but reflective of what we've seen all season. Claudio Ranieri's league leaders were deadly in attack, direct, and relied heavily on the brilliance of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. Jürgen Klopp's visitors were promising at times, blunt in attack, generally bereft of real creativity, and defensively vulnerable. Liverpool need to show something approaching an appropriate response at Anfield tomorrow, and fortunately for the home side, struggling Sunderland are next up.
Joe Gomez and Danny Ings remain long-term absentees with pesky knee injuries, but Martin Škrtel and Jordan Rossiter should return later in the month. Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho, and Divock Origi are all back in training, giving Liverpool a potentially enormous and much-needed attacking boost over the next few weeks. This game, however, is too soon for them. Tuesday's FA Cup Fourth Round replay away to West Ham United could very well be the scene of a return for the attacking trio.
Adam Matthews and Sebastian Larsson are definitely out for Sunderland, but Jeremain Lens and Yann M'Vila are doubts. Younes Kaboul might have trained enough after his hamstring injury to make the bench. Sam Allardyce will have been pleased with Sunderland's midweek defeat against Manchester City where his relegation battlers were worth a point despite losing 1-0. The Black Cats are four points from safety but shouldn't be underestimated. Expect the same 4-1-4-1 formation and personnel as Allardyce looks for a similar performance with a better result.
Predicted Liverpool Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Clyne/ Lovren / Sakho / Moreno
Lucas / Allen
Ibe / Lallana / Milner
Liverpool might need to change things around to find some inspiration. Joe Allen should be starting games now with the form he's in, especially compared with his struggling midfield peers. Jordan Henderson doesn't look fully fit or in condition to play more than one game a week at the moment. Emre Can might need to sit a game out for syncing purposes. The defence should be unchanged but might have an easier time against Sunderland. Famous last words?
The attack needs something from somewhere. Christian Benteke doesn't merit a start with his confidence, understanding, and general game all lacking. Perhaps Jordan Ibe can inject some pace and urgency into the attack. All areas of the team simply must show an improvement in general, but last month showed that this is a season of development with further stumbles to go with welcome surprises.
Kickoff is set for 3PM GMT/10AM EST tomorrow, with television coverage in the UK. NBC Sports Live Extra will have a stream of the game in the US. Elsewhere, Fox Sports 2 Australia and Foxtel Play in Australia, TSN4, TSN1, and RDS 2 in Canada, Star Sports 4 Asia and Star Sports HD 4 in India, SuperSport Select 2 and SuperSport 3 Africa in Kenya, Fox Sports Malaysia in Malaysia, and 102 (HD) mio Stadium in Singapore are carrying the match. You can find other listings at LiveSoccerTV. Online streaming is also available with Fox Soccer 2GO USA in the US. For online radio, fans worldwide can check out LFCTV GO and Absolute Radio.
We'll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it's released, our live matchday thread and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on all the action as it happens.