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The Anfield faithful will want a far better start to the second half of the 2012/13 Premier League campaign than the first; the Reds were beaten 3-0 by West Brom, at the Hawthorns, in August. And to kick-off 2013, Liverpool welcome Sunderland to Merseyside, in a game that could prove to be a tricky one for Brendan Rodgers to win.
Where to Watch Live
Kick-off is set for 7.45 pm GMT. Catch highlights of the match on Match of the Day, on BBC One and BBC One HD at 10.25 pm GMT.
Liverpool finished 2012 on an inconsistent note. The Reds may have won the last game of the year comfortably, beating QPR 3-0 at Loftus Road, but two defeats in the final five games of the year meant little ground was made on teams above them in the league table. Rodgers was quick to point out this issue and to call for an improvement in the New Year, a sentiment echoed by Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva.
The wins against Fulham, West Ham and QPR were offset by poor performances at the Britannia and Anfield (where they were beaten 1-3 by Aston Villa). And that means Liverpool drop to 10th in the league, with 28 points from 20 games. Three points from this fixture are vital if Rodgers wants to keep the London trio of Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea in his sights, to say nothing of local rivals Everton. The four clubs, and the Baggies, are presently fighting it out for the two Champions League positions and the one Europa League spot on offer for next season, with five points separating them from the Anfield club.
Liverpool's home form has been shaky, with four wins and three defeats from 10 games. More worryingly, they have scored only 14 times in those fixtures and conceded 10 goals... far less and more, respectively, than teams above them.
However, the good news is Uruguay striker Luis Suarez continues to fire on all cylinders. The 25 year old is the sole reason why the Reds are still in contention for European football next season, with 13 goals in 19 Premier League appearances so far. The South American scored a brace in the weekend win over QPR.
Meanwhile, Sunderland come into this game after defeat, at home, to Tottenham. Andre Villas-Boas' side needed an own goal from Carlos Cuellar to level matters after former Manchester United defender John O'Shea put the hosts in front. England winger Aaron Lennon wrapped up the points for the north London club with a 51st minute strike.
The defeat drops the Black Cats to 14th and dangerously close to the present relegation mark of 18 points. The good news for Martin O'Neill is the club does have a relatively easier fixture list for January, with West Ham, Wigan and Reading (2 February) to play before the visit of Arsenal. Should they upset the Reds, the next few games could well define the Wearside club's season.
O'Neill's men come into this game in reasonably good form, with three wins from the last five matches. And given that one of those wins was against the champions (they beat Manchester City 1-0 at home), the players should be confident of a decent performance, if not a result, against the Reds.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W L W L W
- Last Match: QPR 0 - 3 Liverpool
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): L W W L W
- Last Match: Sunderland 1 - 2 Tottenham
Left back Jose Enrique (hamstring) was taken off on Sunday and is unlikely to feature in this game. Former Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing will probably slot in for the Spaniard, in a role he (Downing) is increasingly becoming proficient at. Midfielder Jordan Henderson and back-up goalkeeper Brad Jones were both affected by an unspecified illness ahead of the QPR game and will miss this fixture as well. Summer signing Fabio Borini (foot) and defender Martin Kelly (knee) are both unavailable.
Probable Line-Up: Reina; Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Downing; Gerrard, Lucas, Allen; Suso, Suarez, Sterling
Former Manchester United defenders John O'Shea (hamstring) and Wes Brown (knee) are both unlikely to feature in this game and they will be joined by midfielder Lee Cattermole on the injured list. Titus Bramble is likely to step in for O'Shea, with Carlos Cuellar to continue in central defence.
Probable Line-Up: Mignolet; Gardner, Cuellar, Bramble, Kilgallon; Larsson, McClean, Colback, Johnson; Sessegnon; Fletcher