10am, live in the US on FSC
British Daylight Saving Time kicks in on Sunday, which is why the game’s at 10. We’ll catch up next week. I hate Winter Time so much.
Last 4 head-to-head:
4-1 Liverpool (a) 03.14.09
2-1 Liverpool (h) 09.13.08
0-3 United (a) 03.23.08
0-1 United (h) 12.16.07
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-2 Lyon (h); 0-1 Sunderland (a); 0-2 Chelsea (a)
United: 1-0 CSKA Moscow (a); 2-1 Bolton (h); 2-2 Sunderland (h)
Liverpool: Torres 8; Benayoun, Gerrard, Kuyt 3; Babel, Johnson 2; Ngog 1
United: Rooney 6; Berbatov; Fletcher, Owen 2; Anderson, Giggs, Nani, O’Shea, Valencia 1
Referee: Andre Marriner
Guess at a squad:
Johnson Carragher Agger Insua
Kuyt Benayoun Aurelio
I can’t decide whether it’s the best or worst time for Liverpool to be facing United.
On the one hand, who better to get a rise out of the team? If playing the closest rivals doesn’t raise the levels, nothing will. At the same time, Liverpool’s on four-game losing streak and still plagued by the injury bug. Maybe it’d just be better to host the likes of Portsmouth or Hull. Nothing ever comes easy for this club.
And injuries are still a major concern. Riera, Dossena, Kyrgiakos, Kelly, and Aquilani definitely won’t take part. Gerrard probably won’t. But according to Tony Barrett and the official site, we’ve got a better chance with Torres and Johnson, who both trained yesterday. It’s imperative to have Johnson back with Kelly out (I’d just like to reiterate how impressed I was with Kelly’s debut), but obviously Torres would be the biggest relief. He scored against United last year, and Liverpool’s dearly misses his constant threatening. The man can create a goal from absolute nothing.
With Gerrard and Riera still out, my biggest question (outside of who's fit, naturally) is who starts on the left. Since Benayoun would play centrally or on the right (with Kuyt in the other berth), Babel or Aurelio would have to feature on the left. There's been more of a clamor for Babel recently thanks to Liverpool’s injuries and impotence. But I still think he’s not an answer to any question Benitez is asking. Babel’s still best, and only really effective, as a sub. Nothing over three seasons has changed that.
I reckon Benitez will start both Aurelio and Insua on the left as a more defensive, conservative tactic. The pairing worked well at times against Lyon, but I’m more frightened of Nani or Valencia running at an unprotected Insua with a head of steam. You all know my huge crush on Insua, but Govou worryingly ran circles around the little Argentinean on Tuesday.
In addition, I’d also welcome another start for Agger. I’m admittedly biased because he’s my favorite defender, but I think it’s crucial to have his ability to bring the ball out of the back, especially until Aquilani features. Agger can help fix Liverpool’s lack of creativity in midfield from defense; it’s his greatest strength. But he’s not bad in the area and quicker than the other central defenders as well.
It’s not as if things are going superlatively for United, with a loss at Burnley, a draw against Sunderland at Old Trafford, and barely beating CSKA with a late winner, but they still top the table. That’s that club’s recent history in a nutshell. Liverpool may be boosted by Rooney’s absence, struggling with the calf injury that’s kept him out of the last two matches, but it’s probably mind games from Ferguson. If Shrek’s anywhere near fit enough, he’ll play.
But if he doesn’t play, You Know Who will probably start in his place. There’s no question over the reception Owen will receive from the Kop, and it won’t be pleasant. Wouldn’t it just be fitting that Owen knifes Liverpool’s already sinking season. I’ll spend the next 48 hours praying at Jobu's altar to make sure that doesn’t happen.
I’ve been calling this The Biggest October League Match in History™ for a reason. I can’t overemphasize how important this game is. And I’ll be on utter pins and needles for the next 48 hours until kick-off.