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By ESPN Staff

Bruce: We can handle Carroll threat

Steve Bruce will send his defenders out against Liverpool on Sunday under orders not to allow Andy Carroll to ruin his day for the second time this season.

The Sunderland boss, by his own admission, suffered the worst day of his managerial career on October 31 last year when he took the Black Cats to arch-rivals Newcastle and saw the muscular striker batter them into submission.

Carroll did not score on the day, but he and partner Shola Ameobi terrorised the Sunderland defence as the Magpies romped to a 5-1 victory.

Almost five months on, and following his £35million switch to Anfield, the 22-year-old could make his first league start for the Reds at the Stadium of Light, and Bruce is under no illusions as to the task his defenders face.

Casting his mind back to that disastrous afternoon at St James' Park, he said: "We didn't handle any of them - he didn't score, but we didn't handle any of them.

"We know all about him and the one thing about him is you have to physically stand up to him, and I am very confident that the lads we have got playing will be physically able to do that.

"In my day, there were, 10, 12 of them you could reel off, old-fashioned English centre-forwards. He has had a fantastic 18 months and I genuinely wish him well - after Sunday, of course.

"He's a throwback to the old days. We just hope we can defend well against him and play well against him, which we will have to because we know he's a handful.''

Carroll could link up with £22.8 million fellow January signing Luis Suarez on Wearside, and Bruce knows exactly what a problem that could represent.

However, having seen his defenders bounce back from four successive league defeats to claim a hard-earned point at Arsenal last time out, he is confident they can keep the pair at bay.

Bruce said: "Against Arsenal, we showed that resilience and why we have kept 12 clean sheets, which is the same as Chelsea. Only Manchester City have got more than us, so our defence is what we have built the season on, and we have got people up front who can always score a goal.

"The resilience was there against Arsenal and we must make sure it's there again against a very good strike-force of Carroll and Suarez. It looks, on paper anyway, a very good partnership, doesn't it?

"They have good players and as I say every week, to get something from the big teams, you have to play well and make sure you defend. With Suarez and Carroll up front, I know my defenders have got to play well.''

Bruce said: "I feel a little bit sorry for Roy Hodgson, who is a real football man, but was obviously caught up in the turmoil of what Liverpool was. But if anybody, if you are being realistic, could have galvanised Liverpool, then of course it was Kenny. They look a different club to what they were four or five months ago.''

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