Early Sunday afternoon sees Daniel Sturridge travel with what he’s dubbed ‘the biggest club in the Premier League’ to the actual biggest club in the Premier League. This meeting of two old foes, as City travel to North London, could have a large say in this season’s title race. Gerrard and co. would love nothing more than to stop United in their tracks. They couldn’t do it though. Could they?
United are set to welcome back Nani and Anderson to the squad after lengthy layoffs with injury. Neither is likely to start in such a big match but both could conceivably make the bench. As for making the bench after returning from injury, Rooney is rumoured to be closer to fitness than first thought. I jokingly tweeted last week that as soon as Ferguson ruled him out for the Liverpool fixture I expected him to start! After Scholes’ reintroduction to the United squad last January anything is possible!
For Liverpool, their low on numbers squad faces no new injury worries. Enrique and Martin Kelly are still out injured so Glen Johnson could deputise at left back meaning youngster, Andre Wisdom, could fill in at right back.
‘Tactics go out of the window in derbies’ the clichés in the corner of the pub proudly proclaim. Nothing could be further from the truth for this Sunday. Tactics are going to play a huge part. I was talking tactics with my wife the other day. As many couples do, we’ve got a jokey list of five members of the opposite sex that we’d be free to, well, you know, if the opportunity ever arose. My list contains Cheryl Cole, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Natalie Portman and Audrey Tautou. In footballing terms this’d be like starting with Welbeck, Hernandez, Rooney, Van Persie, Nani, Kagawa and chucking in Valencia at right back just for good measure. If it comes off (God, if it ever came off!) it’d see a 12-0 victory and the best night of your life. However, let’s face it, the chances of that ever happening is slim.
Her list, she’s Irish by the way, contains Colin Farrell, Tommy Bowe and Rob Kearney. She’s playing clever. She’s going for gold but she’s doing it in a sensible way. She might actually meet these people. Quite frankly, every time we go to Ireland, I shit myself! In footballing terms, again, this is, essentially, plonking Michael Carrick in the middle of your midfield. Safe, reliable, but will give you a bloody good time.
Jay wrote an article the other day (read it here) saying that this weekend’s fixture is going to be won not in the RvP vs Suarez battle – they’ll be playing so deep in the opposition half that I doubt they’ll see each other after the pre-match handshake – but in the Carrick vs Gerrard conflict. Brendan Rodgers has recently claimed that if you win the possession battle you stand a 79% increased chance of winning the match. Now, whilst Liverpool seems to be trying as hard as they can to buck this trend and skew that statistic, it is simple logic. Have the ball, keep the ball, win. This, ladies and gentlemen, is where Michael Carrick (as sexy a passer as Audrey Tautou is French) can have a huge say in the match on Sunday. I only hope that he’s given Cleverley as perfect foil – someone who can attack the Liverpool midfield and put them under pressure every time they get the ball.
The flanks will also offer United a great opportunity to cause Liverpool some danger. If Johnson is deployed at left back Valencia has to turn him and attack the line. Valencia is becoming depressingly predictable and one-footed but this could actually be advantageous this weekend. Johnson will try to play him inside, onto his stronger foot and Valencia’s weaker. Tony V. must resist this and push Johnson back onto his left. On the left wing, whoever plays there must put Andre Wisdom under intense pressure from the off. In fairness, he looks half decent but this kind of fixture can often find young players out. Be Young, Nani, Welbeck or maybe even Kagawa, he must be put under pressure.
Against Liverpool, as poor as they’ve been in recent years, I’m never entirely confident. However, for tomorrow’s match I am predicting a 2-1 United win. It’ll be close. It’ll be tough. I’m sure United have it in them to get through it and heap the pressure on City who kick off later in the day.
Fancy a Flutter (odds supplied by WilliamHill)
- United to win 2-1 @15/2
- A Van Persie hat-trick @16/1
- Van Persie to score first in a 3-0 win @40/1
- (The unthinakble!) Suarez to score and Liverpool to win @7/1