31 August 2013

Liverpool v Manchester United 09.01.13

8:30am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
1-2 United (a) 01.13.13
1-2 United (h) 09.23.12
1-2 United (a) 02.11.12
2-1 Liverpool (h; FA Cup) 01.28.12

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 4-2 Notts County (h); 1-0 Villa (a); 1-0 Stoke (h)
United: 0-0 Chelsea (h); 4-1 Swansea (a); 2-0 Wigan (n)

Referee: Andre Marriner

Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Skrtel Agger Enrique
Gerrard Lucas
Henderson Aspas Coutinho

Until proven otherwise, until Suarez returns from suspension, or unless Liverpool sign anyone in the next few days (*crosses fingers*), I have to assume that the XI we saw against both Stoke and Villa is Rodgers' first choice lineup.

Unfortunately, it appears there will be at least one forced change from that XI. Toure *may* be able to play, but unless Rodgers is 100% confident about his health, I doubt Kolo will be risked, even in a match of this importance. If he re-injures his groin playing before he's ready, he'll be out a lot longer than a few days, and the upcoming international break gives him ample time to rest. Yes, even if that means Martin Skrtel has to start. Gulp. Come on, Martin, for old time's sake.

There are a few other possibilities, although almost all of them seem likely to occur in the attacking line of three. Sterling could replace Aspas for speed and directness, with Henderson moving into the center for more midfield stability. Other Sterling could start on the left, with Coutinho as an out-and-out #10. Or, Henderson and Aspas could swap positions, again, for more protection in the center of the pitch. Personally, I'd be tempted to put Henderson in the middle, regardless of whether Aspas or Sterling starts, to try to overrun United's midfield at Anfield, but my suspicion is that Rodgers sticks with the devil he knows and seemingly prefers.

As in the last three matches this season, Sturridge will be the key man. He's scored 15 times in his 19 Liverpool games, scored Liverpool's lone goal off the bench (within 12 minutes of coming on) the last time these two sides met, and could become the first player since Fowler in 1994 to score in the first three matches of a league campaign.

Like Liverpool, I suspect we'll see the same lineup from United that we saw in their previous league match: De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Cleverley; Valencia, Rooney, Welbeck; van Persie. Rafael, Nani, Chicharito, and Fletcher are out for a few more weeks, if not longer in Fletcher's case. Phil Jones suffered a back injury against Chelsea but should be fit enough to reclaim the right-back spot, needed in Rafael's absence. Which might well be another reason to start Sterling on the left, although Coutinho charging at Jones is just as tantalizing.

Rooney definitely appears to be staying with United, so there's little reason to hold him out of the XI as against Swansea, while Kagawa or Giggs could come in for Welbeck, but those seem the only other likely alterations. As with Liverpool's striker, United's will also most likely be the crucial figure. Last season's top scorer in the league, Van Persie's responsible for four of United's six goals this season, finding the net in both matches against Liverpool in 2012-13.

Liverpool have kept a clean sheet in five of the last six and seven of the last nine league matches. But there hasn't been a clean sheet kept in one of these league fixtures since October 2009, eight meetings ago. Yes, David Moyes has still never won at Anfield, but winning at Anfield with United's squad is a far different proposition than winning with Everton's. We can only hope he shows the same tentative style that defined his tenure with that lot across the park.


Anonymous said...

Last three matches typo: Nott's County's last 3 is listed.

Anonymous said...

Those are Manchester United's last 3 games, but with Notts County's name.

nate said...

Fixed, thanks guys.