Old Trafford, Manchester
September 19, 2010; 6:00 PM IST – Live on ESPN
England’s Classico of sorts kicks of this Sunday at the Theatre of Dreams. The two most successful clubs in the country tied on 18 league titles each also share a sense of mutual antipathy. The two teams have had rather poor starts by their elevated standards, however, the form book goes straight out of the window in derbies as fierce and intense as the one these two North-West rivals share. Liverpool have lately got the better of United in these encounter but the Red Devils hold the over all edge and are always a tough nut to crack on their home patch. For the locals a win in this fixture gives them bragging rights which they so desperately clamor for and is no less important than a championship in many ways.
United go into the match after a frustrating draw against Rangers in the Champions League with Sir Alex’s team selection under the spotlight. The Scot had made ten changes to his side that threw away the lead at Goodison Park last week. With the second string line-up unable to get the result and Antonio Valencia injured badly during the game, questions have been raised about the squad being potent enough to compete for the title.
The duo are back for United
Rio Ferdinand’s successful return in midweek means that Sir Alex has a chance to field his best central defensive partnership for the first time in the season. Wayne Rooney is also certain to return after his omission from last week’s game due to problems surrounding his private life. The manager has already confirmed about Berbatov’s inclusion in the starting XI. Anderson is expected to be involved at some stage after he returned as an unused substitute against Rangers. Carrick is still out with an achilles injury while Hargreaves is joined by Valencia as a long term casualty, rest of the squad is fit.
Liverpool, on the other hand, travel to Old Trafford under Roy Hodgson for the first time. The friendly relationship of Hodgson with Sir Alex has reduced the intensity of the build-up to the game somewhat, with the Liverpool manager also voicing concerns about the chances of their relationship getting sour due to his decision to join the team from Anfield.
A tough start at his new job
Liverpool has started the season rather unconvincingly under their new manager with their only win coming in the form of a scrappy 1-0 win over lowly West Brom. With fans already questioning the manager, defeat in this game could put Hodgson under immense pressure.
Hodgson, like Sir Alex, also rested his stars for the Europa League game against Steaua Bucharest, but Liverpool did manage to get the desired result as they secured a comfortable 4-1 win. The biggest concern for the manager is the poor form of start striker Fernando Torres as the Spaniard is under media scrutiny after his miserable outing at St. Andrews. Joe Cole will return after a three match ban for his red-card in the opening game against Arsenal. Hard working Dirk Kuyt is still out due to his shoulder injury while Aurelio is also missing due to an achilles problem.
Probable Starting Line-ups
Key Match Facts
1) Torres last scored an away goal in the league at Old Trafford in March.
2) Liverpool have scored only eight goals in their last 14 away league games including four at Burnley last season.
3) United have won 12 out of the last 13 games at Old Trafford.
4) Liverpool have won just 1 out of their last 11 away league games.
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For
Dimitar Berbatov (Man United)
The big Bulgarian has been in tremendous form since the start of the season having already scored four times in the opening five games for the Red Devils. He also led the line brilliantly against Everton last week in the absence of Rooney. His deft touches and flicks might be hard for the Liverpool defence to cope-up with.
Berbatov – Finally flying high!
TheHardTackle’s KEY BATTLE:
Torres vs Vidic
The Spaniard has been a nemesis for United in the last few fixtures, although Vidic’s failure to cope-up with him has been overly exaggerated in the media. This winner of this battle could very well be the winner of the game itself.
Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool
There has been only 1 drawn game in the last 20 between these two sides. Expect another close and fiery encounter with United just coming out on top.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST: