Liverpool-Sunderland Preview

The Associated Press

Luis Suarez is back, but Paolo Di Canio is gone.

Sunderland are hoping the managerial change can provide a lift, while Liverpool look for the same from their returning superstar on Sunday at the Stadium of Light.

In what was nearly a match featuring two of the most controversial figures in football, Sunderland (0-1-4) opted to sack the divisive Di Canio following a 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion last weekend.

After the match, Di Canio stood in front of the angry away supporters, gesturing with his hand raising his chin.

Despite the bizarre display, the firing probably had more to do with the Black Cats sitting at the bottom of the Premier League as the last remaining winless club.

Reports of unrest among the players certainly didn't help, but Di Canio stoked that fire on his own by saying his "players need to release the rubbish from their brains."

Sunderland, instead, released him and ended one of the most turbulent periods in the club's 134-year history.

They named Kevin Ball as the caretaker manager, a position he held in 2006 after the Black Cats fired Mick McCarthy.

Ball's current reign started with Tuesday's 2-0 win over Peterborough United of the Championship in the Capital One Cup.

"The biggest thing for us is looking at what went well, how they did it and what they need to do on Sunday," Ball told the team's official website. "It was a good performance (Tuesday) and I was delighted for the players. Now, we have to take that into Sunday's game."

Sunderland, though, will likely need to contend with Suarez, who is eligible for his first league appearance since being suspended 10 games for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic on April 21.

Liverpool (3-1-1) went 7-2-1 without their star forward, who finished second in the league with 23 goals last season.

The Uruguayan striker returned from the ban Wednesday, and played all 90 minutes of a 1-0 loss to Manchester United in the Capital One Cup.

"I know it was a difficult moment but for myself and for the team it's very important I'm back because I can help the team, and (being) off the pitch, I can't," Suarez told the team's official website. "All the time I try my best on the pitch.

"I'm here to help the team and help Liverpool and I'll try my best."

He's certainly helped against Sunderland, scoring five goals in five meetings, including a brace in a 3-0 victory at Anfield on Jan. 2.

This time, he's facing a side that have given up a league-high 11 goals heading into the weekend. Capitalizing on that leaky defence would keep Liverpool among the Premier League's elite, as they try to prove that they're capable of mounting a championship challenge this season.

"From Liverpool's point of view, their objectives for the season are there for all to see," Ball said. "We know what to expect and it's up to us to counteract that and impose ourselves on the game."

Sunderland have only managed to do that against a pair of lower-league sides in cup play, and production from forward Jozy Altidore would surely help.

The United States international hasn't scored in four league matches after netting 23 goals for AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie.

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