December 04, 2014

If Liverpool are going to finish in the top four, it would be in their best interest to string together some victories, starting with a winnable clash against relegation-threatened Sunderland at Anfield on Saturday.

February is likely to be a pivotal month in Liverpool's season as the club has eight matches on the docket spanning four competitions - the Premier League, FA Cup, Europa League and the League Cup final at Wembley Stadium against Manchester City on Feb. 28, which caused the always feisty Merseyside derby versus Everton to be moved.

It was an inauspicious beginning to a crammed fixture list for Klopp's Reds on Tuesday when the club suffered a 2-0 setback against league-leading Leicester City courtesy a brace from leading scorer and England international Jamie Vardy, whose opening volley on the hour mark is a surefire candidate for goal of the season.

With several key players still working their way back to full fitness - including strikers Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi, midfielder Philippe Coutinho and centre back Martin Skrtel - manager Jurgen Klopp opted for a front three of James Milner, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana, with Firmino in the "false 9" role.

But a visit from Sunderland may be just what Liverpool need to get back on the right track.

The Reds have won five of their last six Premier League meetings with Sunderland. The only point the Black Cats have taken since 2012 was a scoreless draw at Anfield in December 2014.

"We forced ourselves to play, we knew about their kind of defending; sometimes they had higher pressing and things like this. Then you can, and have to, play over the wings," Klopp said. "We had time, we had the ball, we had opportunities in the box, but everybody could see we didn't make the right decision often enough.

"The longer the game was, we didn't get cooler and the decisions didn't get better. That's the problem. We had the ball in their box, we didn't shoot and one second later, Vardy shot from 35 yards and the ball was in. That says most about the game."

Sunderland (5-4-15) also need to put together some positive results if they hope to avoid the drop. Sam Allardyce's side enter the match in 19th place, four points adrift of safety, and aiming to stop a three-match winless run in league play.Tuesday's 1-0 loss to Manchester City was a less-than-ideal start to the month, but the club battled hard after conceding a 16th-minute goal to Sergio Aguero.

"We reacted very well (to the goal)," said captain John O'Shea following the match. "We made the chances, we just have to put them away. The keeper made a couple of very good saves. On another night we could have very easily gotten a point."

O'Shea also emphasized the club's need for more consistency in their play.

"The big thing is to maintain the attitude and performance level and the quality level," he said. "We know if we can do that then we will score more goals and that's the big thing and get back to keeping clean sheets too.

Offence has been an issue for Sunderland, particularly against Liverpool, as the Black Cats have been shut out four times in the last six league matches between the teams and scored just two goals in that span. Sunderland are also on the hunt for their first win at Anfield, going 0-7-7 while being outscored 20-6.

Liverpool beat Sunderland 1-0 at the Stadium of Light in the reverse fixture Dec. 30, with Christian Benteke scoring the game's only goal right after halftime. Each of Liverpool's last three wins over Sunderland have been by one goal.

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