By Christopher Boulay
After defeating one part of Manchester in mid-week, Liverpool hosts the red side on Saturday in the fourth round of the FA Cup hoping for a similar result.
Beating United isn’t easy, and with all of the controversy surrounding the clubs, there has been quite a build-up to this match. Considering this, the stakes seem to be higher for the Merseysiders. Not only does the club have to deal with the continued absence of Luis Suarez – especially in the first match against United since his ban – but also the highs of the win over Manchester City in the League Cup, and the continued expectation of success. The typically icy exchange in the North West derby may be at its coldest in a long while, and the Reds, who are still trying to put last weekend’s embarrassing showing behind them, have yet another great opportunity to continue on the winning path.
Liverpool may have a bit more depth in the midfield as Jay Spearing is expected to be back from the hamstring injury he received during the first leg of the League Cup semi-final. If he is able to start, it could be a significant boost for the club, as Charlie Adam and Steven Gerrard have looked awkward in their central partnership.
It is not out of the realm of possibility that manager Kenny Dalglish will rest Craig Bellamy, even though the striker played an impressive match earlier in the week. It may be necessary for him to rest his knees and could be featured as a sub before next week’s match against Wolverhampton Wanderers. This could leave the duties up front to Andy Carroll and Dirk Kuyt, two players who have had their share of struggles this season, to say the least.
The Reds could benefit from United’s latest bout of the injury bug, as a significant number of the club’s players are either out or walking wounded. Nemanja Vidic and Darren Fletcher are out long-term, others such as Nani, Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones, Wayne Rooney and Tom Cleverley are questionable. With manager Alex Ferguson staying tight-lipped on the statuses of each player, the squad list could be a surprise.
United defeated Arsenal last week and currently sits three points behind Manchester City for the Premier League lead. The Red Devils will be looking to stay in as many competitions as possible after an early exit in the League Cup and the club’s recent crash out of Champions League.
The last time Liverpool defeated Manchester United in the FA Cup was 2006. That year, the Reds went onto win the cup, which is the last time the club has won any silverware. But, with a recent ticket to Wembley punched, another taste of success at the hands of a Manchester club could be what is needed to fuel the club for the rest of the campaign.
Liverpool v Manchester United
When: Saturday, January 28, 1245 GMT / 0745 EST
Where: Anfield, Liverpool
Last FA Cup Match: Liverpool 5-1 Oldham, Man United 3-2 Man City
Probable Liverpool Starting XI:
DEF: Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Enrique
MID: Downing, Gerrard, Spearing, Maxi
FW: Kuyt, Carroll
Subs from: Doni, Kelly, Coates, Carragher, Flanagan, Aurelio, Henderson, Shelvey, Adam, Bellamy
Probable Manchester United Starting XI:
DEF: Smalling, Evra, Evans, Fabio
MID: Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Park
FW: Welbeck, Rooney
Subs from: De Gea, Rafael, Jones, Ferdinand, Scholes, Giggs, Hernandez, Berbatov
Interact: What’s your final score prediction? What’s your predicted starting eleven? Comment below.