9:30am, live in the US on Fox Soccer Plus
Last 4 head-to-head:
2-0 Liverpool (h) 10.25.09
4-1 Liverpool (a) 03.14.09
2-1 Liverpool (h) 09.13.08
0-3 United (a) 03.23.08
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 3-0 Lille (h); 4-1 Pompey (h); 0-1 Lille (a)
United: 3-0 Fulham (h); 4-0 Milan (h); 1-0 Wolves (a)
Liverpool: Torres 15; Kuyt 9; Gerrard 6; Benayoun 5; Ngog 4; Babel 3; Johnson 2; Aquilani, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel 1
United: Rooney 25; Berbatov 10; Valencia 5; Fletcher, Owen 3; Carrick, Giggs, Scholes 2; Anderson, Diouf, Gibson, Nani, O’Shea, Park, Rafael, Vidic 1
Referee: Howard Webb
Webb's been a bad luck charm against the Arse of late, but he was in charge of the 2-1 victory in September ‘08 when Liverpool finally beat United in the league.
Guess at a squad:
Johnson Carragher Agger Insua
Kuyt Gerrard Maxi
Get excited seeing Liverpool pour forward recently? Enjoy the newfound attacking flair that’s brought seven goals in two games? Too bad.
This is Liverpool at Old Trafford against the Mancs. It’s not going to be aesthetically pleasing. It’s probably not going to be fun to watch. And it’s probably not going to be good for any of our nerves.
It’ll be the tried-and-true 4-2-3-1, holding and countering. Even if Aquilani’s recovered from his virus, I expect to see Lucas and Mascherano, and I expect Lucas to sit deeper, as he did in the second half on Thursday. But those box-to-box runs will be necessary if and when Liverpool get an opportunity. Still, if any magic’s created, chances are it’s coming from Torres and Gerrard, who’ve thankfully picked up steam this month. I hope Vidic has a supply of diapers ready for the pants-shitting terror that is Fernando Torres.
I’ve more of a question over who’ll start on the flanks, which is the only real area I’ve questions over. The only player we can safely rule out is Riera; Kuyt, Babel, Maxi, and Benayoun all have decent arguments. Kuyt’s rarely if ever left out for big games. Maxi looked excellent against Portsmouth, albeit on the right. Babel’s started the last three matches and looked a terror in the last two. And Benayoun's creativity and guile have cut open a fair few teams. But I think Kuyt and Maxi will get the nod, although I write that with no great sense of security.
United have also scored seven in their last two matches, housing Milan and Fulham at home. Now's probably a bad time to mention how bad Liverpool's been on the road. And United have a week to prepare for this one, compared to three days for Liverpool. Rooney’s in superlative form, scoring for absolute fun and even mentioned as a challenge to Messi as the best player in the world. That might be a bit far fetched, as Messi’s demonstrated this week, but Rooney’s assuredly up there.
I’m also deathly afraid of Valencia or Nani (probably Valencia) up against Insua. The young fullback’s come under scrutiny of late, given a tough time in recent matches. It demonstrates the lack of depth in Liverpool’s squad more than says anything about Insua’s talents. He's still a kid, and I’m still surprised Dossena was sold with Aurelio’s injury history. But the backline’s set in stone, and whoever plays at left wing will have to track back (which Babel did to much, much better effect yesterday).
Somehow, Liverpool have won three straight over the Mancs, which is probably more motivation for Manchester than reassurance for Liverpool. The Mancs have a 1-4 loss a year ago to avenge, while Liverpool just has to keep winning for a shot at fourth, a result that could ultimately save the club.