Manchester United vs Liverpool Preview

Manchester United vs Liverpool
Premier League
Old Trafford, Manchester
Sunday, 19th September 2010
13:30 BST

Old Trafford will play host to what is arguably the biggest game of the fledgling Premier League season so far, as two clubs mired in one of football’s bitterest and unflinching rivalries meet for the first time in 2010/11.

At this early stage of the campaign it would seem that the only real prize on offer is the re-distribution of the bragging rights, but with fellow title contenders Chelsea already starting to pull away after a faultless start, both Manchester United and Liverpool have ground to make up if they are to stand any realistic chance of sating their relentless appetites for domestic silverware.

A win may prove to be critical for either side as Chelsea themselves welcome newly-promoted Blackpool to Stamford Bridge on Sunday and (with all due respect to the Seasider’s, who have put in some impressive displays in the top flight so far) Carlo Ancelotti‘s side can therefore expect to extend there 100% record with a fairly straightforward points-harvest.

The formbook

It’s fair to say that neither side is yet to deliver a resoundingly consummate performance this season, although United have definitely come the closest with comfortable – if not exhilarating – 3-0 wins over West Ham and Newcastle sitting either side of their frustrating 2-2 draw with a spirited Fulham side at the tail-end of last month.

United would have, however, made it a fairly convincing three wins from their first four Premier League games (leaving them a mere two points behind Chelsea, and level with Arsenal) were it not for Everton’s stroke-inducing last-ditch comeback at Goodison Park last weekend – so it’s safe to say that their current form is good, not great, but good.

Liverpool have managed just one solitary victory this term (shading out West Brom by the narrowest of margins) leaving them seven points off the pace. Roy Hodgson‘s side have also found league goals worryingly hard to come by, managing a total of two during their opening four fixtures.

The high-profile slump in form and fitness of their main goal-threat Fernando Torres continues to be a point of debate, but one suspects that a couple of goals on Sunday may stem the flow of criticism fairly effectively – although the Spaniard’s dour demeanor throughout Liverpool’s drab stalemate with Birmingham last weekend was hardly encouraging.

The last five Premier League meetings

23 March 2008, Manchester United 3–0 Liverpool, Old Trafford
13 September 2008, Liverpool 2–1 Manchester United, Anfield
14 March 2009, Manchester United 1–4 Liverpool, Old Trafford
25 October 2009, Liverpool 2–0 Manchester United, Anfield
21 March 2010, Manchester United 2–1 Liverpool, Old Trafford

Key players

As far as Manchester United’s key player is concerned, it’s hard to see past striker and link-man-in-chief Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian has stepped it up this season after being forced to the fore by Wayne Rooney‘s loss of form and very public ‘private issues’. The wide-spread indifference he was shown last season has since been replaced with a new-found appreciation for his laconic style after a vastly improved goal return of four in five games.

Liverpool will hoping for a sterling performance from their captain Steven Gerrard and, given the circumstances, they are more-or-less guaranteed to find him at his chest-swelling best. Gerrard will have to maintain a much more advanced position than he did against Birmingham if Torres isn’t to become completely isolated again, which would therefore make the presence of the more creative Raul Meireles in the midfield (rather than the prosaic duo of Lucas and Christian Poulsen) a necessity.

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