Liverpool Preview (A) - January 2
SUNDERLAND kick-off 2013 at Anfield this Wednesday evening as they take on Brendan Rodgers' rapidly-improving Liverpool.
Both sides appear to be coming into their own and Liverpool's recent run of form has seen them win five of their last seven Barclays Premier League and Europa League fixtures.
Whilst the Reds are still in 10th in the Premier League table, they are now just six points off of fifth place with a game in hand on the three of the teams immediately above them.
It's been a slow progress for Rodgers and co. and while the Merseyside outfit are by no means the finished product, the plan is clear & progression is gradually being made.
Central to Liverpool's recent upturn in form has been the form of talismanic forward Luis Suarez.
The 25 year-old Uruguayan hitman has already bagged 16 goals in all competitions this term, with 11 of those coming in the Barclays Premier League.
Whilst frequently shrouded in controversy, the Reds' number seven is undoubtedly a supreme talent and the star man in a side which lacks star names these days.
Blessed with great balance, agility, pace and dribbling ability, the Salto-born attacker 129 league strikes in 226 league appearances for Nacional, Groningen, Ajax and Liverpool.
The impact of Kingston-born winger Raheem Sterling has been something more of a surprise, as the diminutive flyer has made 19 Premier League appearances this term and earned an international debut.
Having debuted last term under Kenny Dalglish, the rapid progression of Sterling to a first-team 'regular' has been a pleasant surprise for all concerned and although he has shown signs of waning recently, it's clear the former QPR trainee will go on to become a key player at Anfield.
Roy Hodgson handed Sterling his full England debut against Sweden in November after winning just two England U21 caps last year.
Lightening quick and able to control the football whilst manoeuvring between defenders at great speed, the 18 year-old recently inked a new long-term deal with the club.
Another youngster who has come on leaps and bounds under Rodgers' stewardship is midfielder Jonjo Shelvey.
Signed in 2010 by Hodgson during his ill-fated spell as Reds' boss after just 35 professional starts, the Romford-born midfielder has made serious inroads on the first-team this term.
A rangy midfielder with an eye for a pass and a driving determination in the middle of the park, Shelvey was previously with Arsenal and West Ham's youth teams before moving to The Valley in 2008.
Aged just 16 Shelvey became a regular in the Addicks' midfield whilst also captaining England's youth sides.
Liverpool will be without Fabio Borini (ankle) and Martin Kelly (knee) whilst Brad Jones is a doubt along with Jose Enrique.
Martin O'Neill is missing Wes Brown and Lee Cattermole still, whilst John O'Shea is a doubt with a hamstring problem.
Danny Rose will return after missing the Spurs clash.
Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Gerrard (c), Allen, Sahin; Sterling, Suarez & Downing.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Gardner, Cuellar, Kilgallon, Rose; Larsson, Colback; Johnson, Sessegnon, McClean; Fletcher.