MARTIN O’NEILL has dismissed any notion that Sunderland are tackling Liverpool at an opportune moment.
New Reds boss Brendan Rodgers has endured a testing start at Anfield after taking a solitary point from the opening three Premier League games.
The departure of England striker Andy Carroll on loan to West Ham has prompted further question marks over the ex-Swansea manager after Liverpool failed to land Clint Dempsey as a suitable replacement on deadline day.
But ahead of Sunderland’s opening Stadium of Light league encounter of the campaign, O’Neill is not convinced that the Merseysiders are a side in crisis.
O’Neill said: “You can argue for or against whether it’s a good time to play them. After the match, people can make all sorts of assumptions.
“But I’m not so sure.
“Liverpool have got good players and they may well be disappointed that they allowed Carroll to leave and didn’t get a ready-made replacement.
“But we’ve all got our own problems and we’ve got to concentrate on ourselves.
“Liverpool will be fine. The word legendary is used at the drop of a hat these days, but they have been a legendary club over the last 50 years or so, going back to the days of (Bill) Shankly.”
O’Neill’s main injury concern for tomorrow night’s clash is the fitness of Adam Johnson after the £10million winger sustained a thigh strain on England duty.
Johnson took part in training yesterday and will be put through his paces again today before O’Neill decides whether to hand the 25-year-old his league bow at the Stadium of Light.
O’Neill’s other selection dilemma is whether to include on-loan Spurs left-back Danny Rose and allow Jack Colback to revert to a midfield role.
“I came in last season during the midst of a few injuries when we had to play midfielders at full-back and that’s what we’ve done in the first few games this time around,” said O’Neill.
“One’s pressed upon by Phil Bardsley’s injury and in fairness, Craig (Gardner) doesn’t mind playing there.
“But the other one with Kieran (Richardson) going out, Jack has gone in and played left-back in the last two games.
“He’s always acquitted himself pretty well but essentially he’s a midfield player. The sooner we can get things in the proper fashion again then the better.
“That said, I didn’t put young Rose on the bench at all at Swansea, even though he was signed in time.
“He hadn’t done any training with us and it was just a matter of him going down and having a look at things.
“He had an opportunity to play a couple of matches for the England under-21s during the break.
“I did watch those games and there are some aspects of his game that he could certainly improve on. But over the piece, he’ll be a good acquisition.”