Injury struck and out-of-sorts Liverpool face old enemies and reigning champions Man United for a thrilling grudge match this weekend
LIVERPOOL v Man United is by far and away the biggest and most fearsome rivalry in the Premiership, and the standout fixture this weekend. They boast the largest fan clubs around the world, and the two cities loathe each other. Liverpool are a mess on and off the pitch, and defeat at home Sunday may effectively eliminate them from the title race as early as October.
Liverpool rather embarrassingly rely so heavily on two players. United can win without the likes of Rooney or Vidic, but when Liverpool travelled to Sunderland last week, unable to field Gerrard or Torres, they came away empty handed.
Benitez’s Liverpool doesn’t have a squad full of world-class players. With a mounting injury list, the famous Kop will have to turn Anfield into a barrage of noise to give Liverpool a twelfth man.
For Benitez to be smiling come the final whistle, you’d have to expect the game to be one of passion, commitment, tempo and pure animosity. If United are allowed to play their game, you’d have to fear for the home side.
Argentinean captain Javier Mascherano could be the key for me. When he has the hunger and bite to close down the opposition, it gives Liverpool creative licence. Evra and Johnson are arguably the best players in their positions in the league, and it will be interesting to see who prevails.
Sir Alex will still be feeling acrimonious in the way that Liverpool came to Old Trafford last term and humbled the champions 4-1. He will be eager for revenge, and for Ferguson there can be nothing sweeter than a victory at Anfield. Expect fireworks, red cards, controversy – you name it.
Man United are certainly the better side, but this is a derby like no other, and predicting a winner is a tough call. I fancy the Red Devils because of Liverpool’s crammed treatment room, which would be a disaster for Benitez, as time seems to be his enemy.
Chelsea, Tottenham and Man City all have home games they’d expect to win and will be looking to pounce if Man United slip up. Chelsea should cruise past an average Blackburn side. Spurs must be wary of Stoke’s direct approach but even without the suspended Defoe, they should be too good. Fulham is a well-drilled unit, and it will be a test of Man City’s patience to see if they can break Roy Hodgson’s troops down.
West Ham v Arsenal could be interesting. It’s a London derby with added spice, as the Hammers haven’t won since the opening day of the season. For all of West Ham’s good intentions, they appear to be a lame duck at present, and they won’t relish the visit of the league’s top scorers.
The Gunners seemed to have moved through the gears, looking capable of beating anyone. Zola’s team will have to nullify Wenger’s entertainers, but it seems unlikely, as West Ham lack the grit to grind out results.