Martin O'Neill warns Sunderland about Liverpool's 'quality players'
Black Cats travel to Anfield this evening
Martin O'Neill has warned Sunderland they will come up against some of the best players in the Barclays Premier League when they run out at Liverpool tonight.
Brendan Rodgers' side have entered something of a period of transition as the new manager attempts to reshape the squad and instil his own philosophy, and the inconsistency which has characterised their season to date is perhaps understandable as a result.
However, O'Neill knows that in the likes of defenders Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, skipper Steven Gerrard and striker Luis Suarez, they have players of the highest quality to help nurse their less experienced team-mates through.
He said: "It will be a test for anybody at Anfield regardless of what side Liverpool have.
"They have still got quality players - Suarez is an absolute top quality player, and so is Steven Gerrard, and they have got a couple of lads at the back who have been stalwarts for quite some considerable time, and then you can take the right-back into consideration, who is one of the best in the league."
Sunderland will head across the Pennines having suffered mixed fortunes during the festive period - victory at Southampton was followed by a glorious 1-0 home win over champions Manchester City, although Tottenham rather spoiled the party when they won 2-1 at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
But O'Neill is taking a realistic view of a fixture list which always looked challenging.
Asked if he would have settled for three points from home clashes with high-flying duo City and Spurs, he replied: "I think that would be a fairly decent assessment."
In the circumstances, a trip to Anfield might not be the fixture the Ulsterman would have chosen in which to attempt to bounce back. although it is a venue which has proved to be unusually productive for him during his managerial career to date.
In eight visits so far with former clubs Leicester and Aston Villa, he has emerged with four victories and two draws, a record few other managers are likely to be able to better.
He said with a smile: "I've won almost every time.
"It's a surprise - with Leicester City, I think we won three consecutive times. I've done all right.
"We won with Aston Villa. We were also well beaten on one occasion with Aston Villa - I think we were beaten five and it could have been more.
"But the last time we visited there, we won.
"It's a great ground, it's very atmospheric. It's a great ground to play in and a great ground to visit and be there.
"For one or two of our lads, particularly the younger lads, it will be a great experience for us."
O'Neill will be without central defender John O'Shea after he damaged a hamstring against Tottenham, but full-back Danny Rose is available once again having been forced to sit out the game against his parent club under the terms of his loan agreement.
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