Venue: Anfield Date: Sunday, 23 September, K/o: 13.30
Having made eleven changes for his side’s 5-3 win at Young Boys in midweek, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will roll out the big guns against Manchester United as his beleaguered troops go in search of their first three points of the season. The likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez were rested for that encounter, but both will play against their fierce rivals.
Manchester United meanwhile look set to recall Robin van Persie and Patrice Evra to the squad after both missed out on a starting role against Wigan last weekend. Darren Fletcher may again make the bench after showing promising signs of recovery after a long bout with a stomach illness; The Scottish international came on as a second half substitute in his sides mid-week Champions League victory over Galatasary.
Winger Ashley Young however is still some three weeks away from recovering from a bruised cartilage.
This season’s first encounter between two of England’s most successful clubs is set in the backdrop of the recent Hillsborough findings, which showed police tried to blame Liverpool fans for the tragedy that killed 96 spectators in 1989 and that lives could have been saved had emergency services treated the wounded more urgently. That will all make for a fairly sombre occasion as Anfield hosts its first game since these reports.
There is also the added sub-plot that is the drama of Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra’s recent race row to factor into the equation, as well as last weekends shameful chanting of anti-Liverpool remarks by a small section of the Manchester United contingent.
In spite of this, veteran United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has penned an open letter to United fans stressing that the rivalry between these two great clubs “should never be based on hatred.”
Off the pitch issues aside, Liverpool have made a disastrous start to this campaign – their worst in 100 years. They have failed to win any of their four previous league games so far, but the spirited 2-2 draw against Premier League Champions Manchester City, having twice taken the lead, will fill them with confidence that they can still compete in the big games.
Manchester United are hardly in top form themselves. They only just scraped past Galatasary in Europe midweek, whilst they haven’t registered a win at Anfield in five previous attempts in league and cup ties, stretching back to 2007.
That being said, the gulf in class opened between the last two seasons could be put into sharp focus with a win for the Red Devils. Such an event would take United a point off top place and leave Liverpool in the relegation zone.
Head to Head
[.] This is the 186th encounter between the pair. United have 72 overall wins to Liverpool’s 62, with 51 draws.
[.] Liverpool are yet to win at Anfield this season, but are unbeaten at home against Manchester United in five games.
[.] United ended a run of three consecutive defeats to Liverpool at Old Trafford last season in a 1-1 draw.
[.] Robin van Persie has scored four times in his last five league games against Liverpool.
Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Skirtel, Agger, Johnson, Borini, Gerrard, Allen, Shelvey, Sterling, Suarez.
Man United: Lindegaard, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Rafael, Scholes, Carrick, Kagawa, Nani, Valencia, Van Persie.
Liverpool 1-2 Man United
Liverpool look bereft up front, are winless all season, and could let the occasion get the better of them.
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