Manchester United v Liverpool
Manchester United: League Position: 2nd, League Form: LWWWD
Three second half goals at Stamford Bridge for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side last weekend can only be seen as a great performance, but they came away from the match with Chelsea with only a single point. However, from 3-0 down, they stayed calm, kept playing their way and placed three past the opposition in 26 minutes. Having been on top of Chelsea all game, they knew they could score the goals they needed, even with the shock of being 3-0 down. The mark of Champions?
That draw, although rescued from behind, now puts them back to two points adrift of rivals Manchester City. If they fail to get three points again they will give City to open up the chance a significant gap, and lift the sky blue morale.
Thankfully for United some big names have started to return. Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez were all in fine form against Chelsea, whilst Ryan Giggs is still an instrumental playmaker as he continues to defy age. Michael Carrick has grown in stature as the season has gone on, and even Paul Scholes has returned to offer some stability when called upon.
Liverpool: League Position: 7th, League Form: LDLWD
Having breezed past Manchester City to secure a Wembley place in the League Cup final, and then knocking out Manchester United in the FA Cup, January was a good month for Liverpool. February has started with what in terms of the table is a fine result, a draw with third placed Spurs, yet a 0-0 scoreline which epitomised much about their season.
They are the lowest scorers in the top nine, with both Sunderland and Norwich, in eighth and ninth respectively, having scored more. In fact, so have nineteenth placed Blackburn. With 14 goals at home and 14 away they are not exactly the attacking, entertaining side that their fans lauded them as being once Kenny Dalglish was put in charge.
But now, having served his time, Luis Suarez is back from suspension. The hero of Anfield, supported without question, has arguably been Liverpool’s best player ever since his arrival in January of 2011. But he certainly contributes to Liverpool appalling shots to goals conversion rate, a figure in which Liverpool are the poorest in the Premier League, only scoring 8.5% of the shots they take. At the start of the season you would have got good money on Craig Bellamy to be their top scorer, yet he heads Liverpool’s scoring charts.
Match Prediction: Manchester United – 1.9 Victor Chandler
Although Liverpool will always raise their game for a fixture with Manchester United, even when they cannot match their current title ambitions, this massive tie (probably the biggest in English football) should go Manchester United’s way. Whilst Fergie’s team have scored 16 goals in their last five home league games, Liverpool have scored 14 overall away from home, have scored just twice in their five league matches against the top three (United, City, Spurs) this season and lost 3-0 away at City and 4-0 away at Spurs in those fixtures.
Whilst Liverpool have consolidated their defence to stay in the top four picture, scoring only 28 goals, United can boast 59 Premier League goals. They will also have a loud Old Trafford crowd, ready to react the abuse handed out to Manchester United players in the FA Cup tie at Anfield last month. The Suarez-Evra situation will, hopefully, come to its climax.
Can Liverpool step up their game? Or is it now that United will step on, as ever, in the second half of the season. The ease in which they attacked Chelsea was ominous, and the return to goalscoring form of both Rooney and Hernandez was apparent, although the hole in their defence with Nemanja Vidic’s absence is still clear.
Over/Under: Over 2.5 Goals – 2.00 Stan James
First Goalscorer: Javier Hernandez – 6.5 Sky Bet
Correct Score: 3-1 Manchester United Win – 17.00 Coral
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