As Liverpool get set to welcome Sunderland in their first match of the new year, everyone connected with the Reds will be desperate for 2013 to see a significant improvement on a disappointing 2012, particularly at Anfield.
For a club of Liverpool’s standing, their home record in the last calendar year of having won just six matches and losing seven of their 19 Premier League games makes woeful reading. It is a particularly shocking return given the fortress that Liverpool’s famous old ground used to provide.
Midfielder Lucas Leiva, who missed much of 2012 through injury, is eager to be part of a much better Anfield record in the next 12 months.
"This year we have to be stronger at home," he told the Liverpool Echo.
"If we want to climb the table and have a successful season then we have to be getting a lot more points at Anfield.
"We need to make Anfield a much tougher place for teams to come so that opponents who go there fear playing against us. That's the way it used to be and we need to get back to that.”
Liverpool’s problem in recent weeks has been consistency. Encouraging wins against West Ham and then Fulham were on each occasion followed by a disappointing defeat that has prevented any momentum being built up.
Brendan Rodgers will be desperate that the same doesn’t happen against Sunderland on Wednesday following a 3-0 win at Queens Park Rangers last time out. The Liverpool boss will be back on the bench at Anfield after his absence from Sunday’s victory with a virus.
Sunderland come into the fixture on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Tottenham, a result which ended their recent upturn in form. Their previous two wins on the bounce has lifted Martin O’Neil’s side clear of the relegation zone, but there is still little room for complacency.
Sunderland will be without defender John O’Shea following a hamstring injury suffered against Tottenham. Danny Rose should return to the lineup, though, having been ineligible to face his parent club.
Liverpool have announced the signing of Daniel Sturridge, but the former Chelsea forward has not been registered in time to take on Sunderland. The Reds also look set to be without left-back Jose Enrique through a hamstring problem.
D: Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Downing
M: Gerrard, Lucas, Allen
F: Sterling, Suarez, Suso
D: Gardner, Cuellar, Bramble, Rose
M: Johnson, Larsson, Colback, McClean
Prediction: The match is unlikely to feature an abundance of goals, with both Liverpool and Sunderland struggling to find the back of the net this season. With two orthodox wingers and a converted winger in Sebastian Larsson likely to start in central midfield, Liverpool should have little problem establishing control of possession.
Much will depend on Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez to provide the impetus to break through Sunderland’s rear guard. They should just have the quality to get a narrow victory.
Liverpool 1-0 Sunderland
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League clash will kick-off 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN2, with a live stream available on ESPN3.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.