Although the Reds won their last match, their previous league game saw two points dropped as Leicester City took a 2-2 draw home from Anfield. On Saturday at 12:45 they will aim to get back on track league-wise, at the Stadium of Light.
Liverpool’s record away to the bottom half of the table (which is where Sunderland find themselves) under Brendan Rodgers is pretty good: W15 D5 L4 F59 A35, with a points-per-game average of 2.08. They have only failed to score once, and not for almost two years; it was a 0-0 away at Reading in April 2013. That said, they only have two clean sheets in these games since that match at the Madjeski too.
In the same period, Sunderland’s home record against teams in the top half reads: W6 D8 L13 F28 A40 Points-per-game: 0.96. The last time they won such a game was nearly a year ago, when they best Stoke in late January 2014, but they have drawn with Manchester United, Spurs, Everton and Chelsea at the Stadium of Light this season.
(Please note: the table placings are based on the end of the season for completed seasons, or the current table for this season, and not at the time of the game necessarily).
Sunderland have scored the fourth highest proportion of headed goals in the league this season (29%), whilst Liverpool have scored the third lowest (8.3%). The Mackems have scored six goals from set pieces in 2014/15 whilst the Reds have conceded six, and the conversion rate for both is 8%. I’m sure we can expect the home side to try to exploit Liverpool’s weakness in this area.
The Reds need to be wary of being caught on the break too; only Manchester City (with five) have scored more counter attack goals than Sunderland (two) this season, and no team has a higher proportion of their goals from set plays and counters (44%) than Sunderland do.
No team in the Premier League has conceded their first goal earlier on average than Sunderland this season (after 26 minutes; Liverpool’s figure is 45) but interestingly only Chelsea score their first goal earlier than Sunderland too (after 31 minutes, compared to 43 for the Reds). There’s a very real chance that we’ll see a farily early goal in this match.
There’s an interesting quirk regarding Sunderland’s save percentage figure. At present, the combined efforts of Pantilimon and Mannone are ranked 16th out of 20 in the top flight for saving Opta-defined big chances (when compared to what you would expect them to concede on average from the number they’ve faced) yet they are 2nd for all other on target shots. Sadly for Liverpool, their goalkeepers are ranked 17th for both types of shot! This certainly suggests that the Reds’ attack are going to have to bring their ‘A’ game if they are to score on Saturday lunchtime.
Both of the teams have lost twice when scoring first this season, with Sunderland doing so in two of their last three home games, and Liverpool doing so once away from home (at Crystal Palace). The Mackems are one of five teams in the Premier League yet to win a game when conceding the first goal this season, though Liverpool have only done this once themselves (away at Leicester City).
The home side are the top flight’s third lowest scorers at home this season, and have only scored more than once in two of their ten games. By contrast, Liverpool have the division’s fifth best away attack, and three of the four times that they have scored three-or-more goals in the league in 2014/15 have come on the road (at Tottenham, QPR and Leicester).
Sunderland have the Premier League’s fifth worst home defence, and only Leicester have kept fewer clean sheets at their own ground than Gus Poyet’s side have. Liverpool’s rearguard is similarly bad on the road, as only two teams have conceded more goals-per-game, and much like the Mackems at home, the Reds only have two clean sheets away from Anfield. Sunderland do have as many clean sheets in their last nine league games as Liverpool have in the whole season though.
As three of the four aspects in this match are performing poorly (Sunderlands home attack and defence, and Liverpool’s away defence) I am hopeful that the Reds’ away attack can ensure that Liverpool take the points. A draw is perhaps the most likely outcome though.