Liverpool seek Sunderland solace after emotional week
Emotions expected to run high at club's first game since Hillsborough report, but team have yet to win in the league under new manager
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is targeting a first Premier League win since taking charge when the team travel to Sunderland today.
The match comes at the end of an emotional week for the club. A damning report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans, found police changed statements and tried to blame supporters for the crush.
Rodgers, who was only 16 when the disaster happened, said he hoped the publication of the truth about the disaster would end disgraceful and tasteless chants by "idiots" at future matches.
"I speak as a human being and I don't ever like to hear anything like that, whatever club it is, that associates with other people's tragedies and death," Rodgers said. "Unfortunately there are that minority of supporters who will maybe disappoint, but let's hope we can all move on and we can all learn from this whole process."
Liverpool have yet to win in the league since Rodgers took charge in pre-season, collecting just one point from their opening three games.
And with a match against bitter rivals Manchester United on September 23, three points at Sunderland are essential although they are by no means certain.
Steven Gerrard, sent off for England against Ukraine in midweek, is set to continue in midfield while winger Stewart Downing, whose career includes a loan stint at Sunderland, is pushing for a recall.
Martin O'Neill, the Sunderland manager, is preparing his players for the special atmosphere that will accompany Liverpool's first game since the independent panel's Hillsborough verdict.
"I'm never sure it is a good time or a bad time to play Liverpool, but it will be a very emotional occasion with Liverpool fans coming in their droves for the first game afterwards," O'Neill said.
"They always felt they were maligned greatly and it has now worked for them. It is a total vindication. They must draw some sort of comfort from this, even though 96 people lost their lives.
"Liverpool come here with great tradition. I know the word legendary is used at the throw of a dice these days but that club is legendary, especially since Bill Shankly came in.
"It's a club of real proud traditions. It will be a really highly charged atmosphere," O'Neill said.