Once more, Liverpool proved they can punch above their weight class by taking down then-leaders Leicester City on Boxing Day.
The goal for Wednesday's match at Sunderland is to avoid the type of letdown that has prevented them from posting consecutive league victories this month.
Jurgen Klopp's charges halted the Foxes' 10-match unbeaten run with a 1-0 victory at Anfield on Saturday, ending a three-match winless streak. Christian Benteke, who replaced an injured Divock Origi in the first half, scored in the 63rd minute as the Reds (7-6-5) took the initiative and came away with a deserved three points that pushed them momentarily to eighth in the table before Stoke City and West Ham United won Monday.
"We made a game which we should make in these circumstances, against this opponent, with the wind and the pressing of the opponent, and all these things," said Klopp, whose Reds aim to finish the first round of fixtures in seventh. "All of the games are really, really important. This is important too. We beat the leaders of the table. A lot of teams have tried to before and it's not too easy, so I am really pleased with what we did today."
Origi strained a hamstring and likely will be held out of this match given the glut of fixtures, limiting Klopp's options up front with the quick turnaround. The German manager noted he finds "hamstring" to be "the worst word of the year for me," since the Belgian is the ninth player to suffer a leg injury since Klopp arrived in October, and he joins Daniel Sturridge among first-choice strikers who are nursing injuries.
That leaves Benteke, Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho as the primary scoring options to help Liverpool win back-to-back league matches for the first time since defeating Manchester City and Swansea City on Nov. 21 and 29. They've lost their last two road matches via shutout and have not scored outside Anfield in 189 minutes since Martin Skrtel - also currently out with a hamstring ailment - capped Liverpool's 4-1 victory at the Etihad.
"We need to take as many points as possible in the next couple of games," defender Dejan Lovren told Liverpool's official website. "We need to continue to work because we had great team spirit but (recently) we felt a little bit down."
Some of Liverpool's down moments have included a 2-1 home loss to Crystal Palace sandwiched between road wins over Chelsea and Manchester City, as well as a 3-0 defeat at Anfield to West Ham United after starting the season 2-1-0.
Sunderland (3-3-12) are second from the bottom on 12 points and have dropped four on the trot after being overrun 4-1 at Manchester City on Boxing Day. Fabio Borini had the lone consolation for the Black Cats, who have shipped 12 goals during their losing streak after back-to-back shutout victories over Crystal Palace and Stoke City.
The lopsided result angered manager Sam Allardyce, who felt his team played soft against the Citizens.
"I want to see more resilience," he told the club's official website. "These players have to accept the responsibility that they're not performing to the level we need to try and get out of trouble."
Allardyce has watched Sunderland go 3-0-7 since taking over in October, and the Black Cats are eight points from safety heading into the final fixture of the first round. Their 37 goals shipped are the most in the Premier League despite every other team in the bottom half having played an additional match, and their minus-18 goal differential leads only the historically bad Aston Villa.
Defender Sebastian Coates knows the task to avoid relegation isn't going to get any easier facing Liverpool despite their injury woes up front.
"Liverpool have the players to punish mistakes and it is going to be another tough game, but we're playing at home and we need to show what we can do.
"We need to be better and improve whilst showing that we can win games."
Sunderland are winless in their last six (0-2-4) versus Liverpool and lost 1-0 in last season's corresponding fixture on Lazar Markovic's eighth-minute goal. The other match ended in a scoreless draw.