Five things we learned in Liverpool's draw against Sunderland

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Liverpool failed to capitalise on their good form of late and were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw with Sunderland at Anfield.

Brendan Rodgers made several changes to the Reds' starting XI that beat Leicester City 3-1 on Tuesday night, with captain Steven Gerrard dropping to the bench in preparation for Tuesday's must-win tie against FC Basel in the Champions League.

There were several talking points during the game and plenty to take in to account prior to the clash against the Swiss champions.

The blueprint is set for Basel

The main take-away for Saturday's clash has to be Liverpool's inability to score.

The Reds' were the Premier League's highest scorers last season, netting a superb 103 goals and frightened defences even before the game started.

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Luis Suarez may now be at Barcelona and Daniel Sturridge has been side-lined since early September with injury, however, there was still plenty of attacking class against the Black Cats.

Philippe Coutinho was a magician last term, Adam Lallana was Southampton's best player and Raheem Sterling has quickly come into his own over the past 18 months.

Yet, there were few chances created and Costel Pantilimon had an easy afternoon making few saves during the 90 minutes.

It comes as a worry given the lack of opportunities that Liverpool are creating of late.

Against Stoke City, they had to wait until the 85th minute to strike and versus Leicester, all three goals came via mistakes from the Foxes' defence and goalkeeper and did not test Kasper Schmiechel.

Based on Sunderland's draw against Chelsea last week, it highlighted that Gus Poyet is happy to walk away with a point against top clubs - and rightly so.

However, Rodgers did not anticipate this and had no answers. 

It's not the first time this has happened.

In the 2-0 loss to Chelsea last season, Jose Mourinho lined up his men to defend practically all game and Liverpool had no answers.

With Basel only needing a point on Tuesday to qualify for the knock-out stages of Europe's elite competition, it is not difficult to recognise what they have and will do to gain a draw.

The Swiss-outfit displayed similar tactics when the two played at St. Jakob Park, letting Liverpool see plenty of the ball, but always defending comfortably and counter-attacked.

There's no doubt these methods will once again be employed and Rodgers will have to be at his absolute best to break down the 11 men behind the ball.

Raheem Sterling continues to excite

That being said, Sterling was the diamond in the rough against the Black Cats.

The 19-year-old was the only player in a Red shirt who looked a danger, especially in the second-half.

He attacked the Wearside club's back-four with venom and pace, asking several questions and was unlucky not to have won his side a penalty late on and created plenty of chances, some which should have been converted.

It still seems that Rodgers wants to protect the England international eve so slightly, not giving him the full responsibility he should have, given his talent.

In the absence of Sturridge, Liverpool need someone who can be given a free-role upfront and really dazzle defences.

By no means, do not play him in the number nine role, however, if Sterling was given permission to roam wherever he wanted to, we'd see him causing problems down both flanks and on the wings.

Set-pieces still an issue

There's no secret that the Reds' struggle to defend set-pieces and Saturday was no different.

The away side had a couple of opportunities from corner's that were luckily off-target, but, another day they could easily go in.

Simon Mignolet's ability in between the sticks is still questionable and team's prey off this. 

The Belgian's confidence is low and he's been at fault from crosses countless times this term and Sunderland employed this tactic when given the oppurunity.

Kolo Toure brings more composure to the Liverpool defence, however, lost Wes Brown far too easily at the back post and the former Manchester United man should have done better.

Conor Wickham too found plenty of space in the second-period from a corner but snatched at his half-volley and dragged his effort wide.

Despite Toure bringing more clarity, there is still no leader of the back-four and nobody yelling when a man is spare, employing someone to keep a tight mark.

Philippe Coutinho needs movement

The Brazilian was superb for Liverpool last term and had so much joy when playing alongside Suarez and Sturridge.

For the most part this term, Coutinho has had Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert ahead of him and it has effected his form.

The play-maker thrives off picking the ball up deep, driving into space and hitting an inch-perfect through ball to a striker making a run into space.

With Lambert on Saturday, this was none existent. 

The 32-year-old is not quick enough to meet this criteria and instead prefers the ball to his feet and work the ball out-wide before a cross is aimed at him.

Too often, Coutinho had the ball at his feet and he was forced to carry on his run, losing the ball several times, or play the ball to Lambert's feet and be stopped in his tracks.

It's no fault of either, it's just that they do not meet each others style of play.

Whilst Sturridge is side-lined, it makes more sense to play Lallana in the number ten role and limit the 22-year-old's opportunities until the ex-Chelsea forward is fully fit.

Lallana and Lambert combined so often for Southampton last season and have done for Liverpool in the 3-1 defeat against Crystal Palace. 

Their understanding for one-another's game is a must whilst the Merseyside club struggle for goals and given everything else has yet to really hit full throttle, it's worth a try.

Alberto Moreno is attempting to mature

When the Spaniard scored a superb solo goal in the 3-0 victory against Tottenham Hotspur, it gave Kopites plenty of excitement about their £12 million signing.

Since then, there's no doubt that Moreno can attack and has bombed forwards on the left-hand side and linking well with Lallana and Sterling in particular.

However, the 22-year-old's defensive qualities have been questioned.

On debut against Manchester City, Moreno was caught dwelling on the ball in a dangerous area in his own box and was dispossessed and gifted the Citizens' an easy strike.

Away at Newcastle, this fate was virtually mirrored.

The former Sevilla man too committed himself to attacks so much that he would forget his defensive duties and leave Liverpool isolated at the back.

But, in Saturday's clash, Moreno restricted himself to fully getting forwards and made defending his number one role.

He barely put a foot wrong all game and was never beaten on the left-hand side of defence.

Although you could see he wanted to be driving forwards, the way he restricted himself shows signs he wants to improve.

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Raheem Sterling
Premier League

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