Football loves a good sub-plot, and at the Stadium of Light at 4pm on Sunday, there will be enough to fill an episode of Coronation Street.
Firstly the home side, who play their first Premier League game since relieving boss Paolo Di Canio of his duties following a 3-0 defeat at the Hawthorns. Kevin Ball is the old head owner Ellis Short has handed the reigns to, at least temporarily, as the American scours Europe for a successor capable of guiding Sunderland out of the relegation zone.
With just one point from the first five games of the season and rooted to the bottom of the league, Ball was at least able to generate a modicum of positivity from a beleaguered squad with a comfortable 2-0 midweek victory over Peterborough in the Capital One Cup.
Ball opted to select only three of the 14 new faces that were recruited over the summer, and he’s likely to opt again for experience as Liverpool visit a ground where they’ve struggled in recent seasons.
They’ve won just once on their last four visits to Wearside, with one memorable defeat to a goal scored via a beach ball in 2009 still sticking in the craw of many a Red. Sunderland are 9/2 to claim a much-needed win, and a 1-0 scoreline can be backed at 14/1.
With Stephen Fletcher out injured, Ball decided to deploy Emanuele Giaccherini behind Jozy Altidore against The Posh, and the Italian seemed much more comfortable in a free role as he opened up the scoring. He’s likely to line up in the same position on Sunday and can be backed at 9/2 to score at any time.
Should the home team manage a victory, expect to see ex-captain Kevin Ball’s odds of becoming permanent boss slashed. At 12/1, he’s currently behind the likes of Gus Poyet (1/3) and Rene Meulensteen (4/1).
As for Liverpool, they bring with them nine more points on the board than their hosts, as well as two returning Wearside heroes. Simon Mignolet and Jordan Henderson will expect nothing less than a warm reception, with both players’ respective absence being so sorely felt so far this season. The visitors also bring with them another treat, Luis Suarez.
Returning to the Premier League following his ten game ban for biting, Sunderland fans will be cursing the timing of this fixture. Suarez has played only five games against Sunderland in his career, and has scored five times.
Much has been made of Liverpool’s disappointing performance at home to Southampton, with a lack of thrust attributed to Philippe Coutinho’s absence in attack.
But after getting a crucial 90 minutes under his belt in the League Cup in midweek, Suarez will be one step closer to full fitness, and one step closer to finding the form that made him last season’s second most potent striker. With him back in the XI, Coutinho’s loss won’t be felt as much and Suarez will once again prove a thorn in Sunderland’s side.
He’s 7/2 to open the scoring and make it six in six against Sunderland, while four-goal strike partner Daniel Sturridge is 4/1. Liverpool are 3/4 to win at the Stadium of Light, while the draw can be backed at 12/5.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.