Age-old rivals Liverpool and Manchester United go head-to-head on Super Sunday at Anfield, with both sides having much to prove. The hosts are looking to assert themselves under new boss Brendan Rodgers, whilst the visitors are eager to win back their Premier League title. With revelations over the Hillsborough disaster and a renewal of the race row between Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez in the thoughts ahead of the game, this is set to be an explosive encounter.
The majority of the Liverpool players are expected to be fresher going into the game, as their Northern Irish manager rested first-team players such as Steven Gerrard, Suarez and Daniel Agger for the side’s Europa League trip to Switzerland in midweek. Of the starting team that beat Young Boys 5-3 on Thursday night only Nuri Sahin and potentially Jose Enrique are expected to challenge for a place to take-on United, with the remainder of the side fringe and youth players.
The Merseysiders have started life under Rodgers in rather slow fashion, with the new boss looking for his first win in the Premier League. Two points from their first four games is a disappointing return, with defeats against West Brom and Arsenal coupled with draws against Manchester City and Sunderland.
The home fans will expect and demand a positive performance from their side as the sentiment of the recent revelations over the truth behind the Hillsborough disaster stick in the memory. It will be an emotional day for many of the Kop faithful, who will hope their passion for the city and the club is replicated by the playing staff on the pitch. Despite home advantage, Liverpool are still underdogs at home at 2.60, reflecting their drop in stature in the last two seasons.
United have started their Premier League campaign with three wins and one defeat, without looking at their best. An opening day loss to Everton has been countered by wins over Fulham, Southampton and Wigan, whilst the Old Trafford outfit also started their Champions League campaign with a 1-0 victory over Galatasaray on Wednesday.
Sir Alex Ferguson fielded a strong side against the Turks, the majority of which should play from the off against Liverpool. Wayne Rooney is still sidelined, and despite rumblings in the press of a quick-than-expected recovery, the England man will most likely miss out. Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa started in attack in midweek, but Sir Alex has Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez at his disposal also; Mexican Chicharito has scored in his last two visits to Anfield in the Premier League. Rio Ferdinand is likely to be restored to the starting XI in place of Jonny Evans, whilst Tom Cleverley will also push for a place from the start.
One issue that has arisen this season is that United have missed three penalties, with Hernandez, Van Persie and Nani all failing to hit the target from 12 yards. Bet At Home give odds of 3.40 for a spot-kick to be awarded in the game, and in the hostile environment of Anfield visiting takers must hold their nerve if the current trend of misses is to be bucked.
United skipper Nemanja Vidic has pleaded with travelling fans to refrain from Hillsborough-related songs or chants, which could well stoke the fires of an already tense meeting. Luis Suarez shinned Patrice Evra in the handshake last season at Old Trafford also and as such a number of factors could have a real impact on the game. United are slight favourites to win at 2.55 with Bet at Home.
The midfield will be a key area that could well decide the victor of the game, with Cleverley, Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes in line to face up against Gerrard, Joe Allen and Sahin or Jonjo Shelvey. In this fiery encounter there could well be a raft of yellow cards, and a bet on a sending off looks like a sensible decision at 3.40.
United fans are rightly proud of their 19 top-flight titles, one more than Liverpool, with the Red Devils winning 61 league encounters compared to the Merseysiders’ 53; there have been 44 draws. Despite this United have not won at Anfield in the last five times of asking in all competitions, with their last victory going back to December 2007 when Carlos Tevez scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 victory.
This should be quite the spectacle and both sets of fans will be praying for victory. For Liverpool, Rodgers is under pressure to continue a strong home record against the old enemies and needs points after a slow Premier League start. United will want to take the emotive aspect out of the game, avoid controversy and escape with points, ideally three; one way or the other it will be scintillating stuff.