Preview: Liverpool vs. Sunderland

Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers encourages his players during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on March 16, 2014
© Getty Images
Sports Mole looks ahead to tonight's Premier League encounter between Liverpool and Sunderland at Anfield.

For the first time since 2009, there is some real optimism around Anfield heading into the final stages of the Premier League title race.

Liverpool play host to Sunderland this evening in the knowledge that a victory would move them to within a point of leaders Chelsea. Brendan Rodgers's side are in good form, having been unbeaten in the league since the turn of the year, winning nine of their 11 outings.

Rodgers is expected to stick with the majority of the team that won 6-3 away at Cardiff City at the weekend, although Raheem Sterling could replace Philippe Coutinho. In terms of injuries, Rodgers has no new concerns to contend with.

The same cannot be said for his opposite number Gus Poyet, though. The Sunderland boss will be without Steven Fletcher because of an ankle complaint, while Marcos Alonso is suspended.

Italian striker Fabio Borini will also be absent under the terms of the loan agreement that look him from Liverpool to Sunderland earlier in the campaign. The omission of Fletcher and Borini could see Connor Wickham profit, having recently returned from a loan stint at Leeds United.

The visitors need the victory just as much as their hosts, only for different reasons. They go into the clash 18th in the table and three points from safety.

However, the Black Cats have not won at Anfield since October 1983, with Gary Rowell scoring the only goal of the game from the penalty spot.

Recent form

Liverpool: WLWWWW

Sunderland: WLLLDL

Possible starting lineups

Liverpool: Mignolet; Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Flanagan; Gerrard, Allen, Henderson; Sterling; Suarez, Sturridge

Sunderland: Mannone; Bardsley, O'Shea, Brown, Gardner; Cattermole, Bridcutt, Larsson, Ki, Johnson; Wickham

Sports Mole says: 3-0

Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on March 16, 2014
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