SUCCESS is hell. Just awful. A terrible torture. Those lads who set out to scale Everest way back when, they knew what it was all about.
“What would represent the most incredible achievement?”
“Scaling that big fuck off mountain of course!”
“Won’t it be fraught with horror, danger, and be absolute agony to do?”
“Yes! And we’ll probably die trying!”
“Great! I’m in!”
Anyone enjoy Liverpool 1 Manchester City 0? No? I didn’t think so. The whole experience was a living hell. From start to finish. Until the very end. Until that weird ref blew that final whistle. Until the summit was reached. I felt like I’d been holding my breath for 86 minutes.
We play Manchester United (January 15) and Chelsea (January 31) over the course of the next month. Looking forward to those clashes? Yeah, you are. Me too. They will be the worst. Can’t wait.
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To live the big life we want to live with our football team, it is inherent that we must suffer. For the ecstasy we crave we must be prepared to offer up all our surety. All our peace of mind. To live one day as a tiger, we must endure a 1,000 as a wretched anxiety-strewn lamb first.
Fortunately, the quest for the big prizes is occasionally punctuated with days of potential lighter relief. Enter Sunderland. They’re hapless and nose diving towards The Championship, with David Moyes looking to successfully complete the job of burying what is left of a reputation in tatters.
If you’re going to be forced to play a Premier League game just 46 hours after you’ve played the biggest one of the season to date, then you couldn’t pick better opponents than Sunderland. They were turned over 4-1 at Burnley on Saturday, picked up more injuries, and will be brimming with the reverse of confidence.
I’ll be in the North East on tomorrow afternoon hoping to see the opposite of the game I watched at Anfield. Not the opposite in terms of scoreline, but in terms of fraughtness. I’d love to see my new favourite Liverpool player of all time — Gini Wijnaldum — head butt another brilliant goal into the Sunderland net. I’d really like to see Sadio Mane swivel and bounce and swerve and then lash one in from 20 yards to give the Reds a solid 2-0 platform within the first quarter.
I’d really appreciate it if Bobby Firmino could back heel a third in before the break, too. That would be awesome, guys.
The grim reality of our cause, our quest, is that we will get no smoothness. We are, in truth, a team low on gas. You could see it in the second half against City. Our legs looked heavy, our lungs deflated. The Reds prevailed by force of will alone. This force will again need to be with them on Wearside on a cold and frosty Bank Holiday afternoon.
Sunderland have fannied about at Burnley and got their just desserts, but they will come out at swinging for Liverpool’s visit. They were decent enough at blocking and stopping at Anfield a month ago. Liverpool laboured to beat them 2-0. Frauds that they are, they are again likely to demonstrate just how they have let their home fans down this season by showing a level that they will only dust off for us.
Their 11 will not be as jaded as our 11. They simply didn’t get the work out that Liverpool did. David Moyes can rotate and no-one will be able to tell that he has done so. Because they’ve all been rubbish this season. There’s no selection art to rubbish-out, rubbish-in.
Jürgen Klopp has some serious decisions to make if he’s to keep us on course, and keep us on course he must. It’s a cliché, but you don’t waste wins over Manchester City by then pulling up short against Sunderlands of this world.
I’m going to guess that the potentially injured Jordan Henderson will see no part of this game. Joel Matip and Philippe Coutinho have been ruled out already.
Klopp will have had a team in mind for Sunderland even before he picked his City team. That neither Divock Origi or Daniel Sturridge were first picks on Saturday suggests to me that they may both start tomorrow.
That being the case, expect a 4-4-2 diamond. It’s possible that Roberto Firmino’s legs may be saved and that Mane is given his swan song before departing to the Africa Cup Of Nations in a role at the head of the diamond.
If all of this transpires, then Emre Can will replace Henderson as the no 6, with Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana ahead of him. Heck, we may even see Alberto Moreno in for a rested James Milner.
One thing is for sure, it will be the least predictable Liverpool FC 11 in a good few weeks.
The restructured Reds to shatter Sunderland: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Moreno; Can, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Mane; Origi, Sturridge.
Last season: Sunderland 0 Liverpool 1.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Odds: Sunderland 10-1, Draw 9-2, Liverpool 4-11.