It is often a trait of relegated teams that they can suffer defeats despite playing well, and that is why Gus Poyet will have been left with more questions than answers from Sunderland’s encouraging display in the 2-1 loss at Anfield last Wednesday.
The Black Cats managed to do what the vast majority of teams in the Premier League have failed to do this season and stand up to the often rampant Reds on their own ground. In the second half, Lee Cattermole hit the crossbar, Ki Sung-Yeung pulled a goal back and then John O’Shea sent a free header across goal and wide in the last minute.
The trouble was, of course, that it took goals either side of half-time from Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge to drag that performance out of the visitors, who were helped when Poyet introduced both Ki and Adam Johnson from the bench.
Both should surely start here, as will Fabio Borini after he was ineligible to face his parent club last week. The returns of all three could just be the boost that the home side need.
And Sunderland do desperately require that boost. Weekend results placed them four points away from safety, and although much has been made of the games in hand they possess on their rivals, one of those was at Anfield and another is at Manchester City.
Indeed, with their four remaining away fixtures seeing the Mackems go to Tottenham, City, Chelsea and Manchester United, you get the sense that if Sunderland are to stay up they are going to do so at the Stadium of Light. Matches such as this one are vital.
Whilst Sunderland were losing at Liverpool, West Ham were grinding out a home victory over a 10-man Hull City which ended with the Upton Park fans booing Sam Allardyce’s men despite them winning three points.
The typically unreserved Allardyce was quick to register his displeasure at the reaction to the result, and he certainly had a point given that win took his team – once regarded as strong relegation candidates – eight points clear of the drop zone.
They probably need just one more win to secure safety, but given their record of just two victories in their last 11 league away games, that win probably won’t come here.
Check the team news beforehand, but if Ki, Johnson and Borini are reunited in the Sunderland team, then a home win looks very possible at a price of 2.20.
Sunderland won this fixture 3-0 last season, but given that they have been a bit kinder to visiting teams lately the 2.25 for the hosts to score over 1.5 goals is also tempting, as is both teams to score at 1.82. For the more ambitious, over 2.5 goals in the second half is an interesting 5.40.
Borini, a scorer of some big goals for his team this season, is an enticing 3.75 to net at any time here.
Poyet started with Jozy Altidore and Connor Wickham in attack at Anfield, but after his team noticeably improved once the latter departed the field in the second half the Uruguayan will surely change things here, with the dangerous Ki at 5.50 to score at any time for the second week running.
West Ham will be looking to the ex-Newcastle pair of Andy Carroll (3.65 any time) and Kevin Nolan (4.20) to get one over their former rivals, whilst Mark Noble scored from the penalty spot in midweek and is 7.50 to score at any time again here.
Sunderland to win – 2.20