Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers are hoping that beyond all the emotion of the occasion, with the Hillsborough shadow looming over the match and the fact that it’s a very difficult match against their biggest rivals, a better team in Manchester United, this will finally be their first win of the 2012-2013 season.
Although a draw wouldn’t be that terrible for both sides, as United have failed to win at Anfield in four consecutive visits, the last one coming in 2007, the win would mean a lot more to the home side, winning only 2 points from the first four matches. Brendan Rodgers will be able to use his entire squad, with most of the senior players rested during the 5-3 win over Young Boys, although that match might have given Rodgers some ideas, especially about using Shelvey.
For United, it’ll be about trying to ignore everything that’s going on around them in the match. Alex Ferguson has already sent out a letter to the visiting United fans regarding the respect that need to be shown towards the ceremony and the entire event, as both sides are known to bring up Hillsborough, Heysel and the Munich air disaster during the matches.
When it comes to proper football, United have the better side, against a defense that’s conceded in every match this season, including two goals in both home games. Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa weren’t at their best against Galatasaray, but equally important will be the midfield pairing he chooses, and their ability to confront the Liverpool trio, which will be with Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard and either Nuri Sahin or Shelvey.
United haven’t been looking to confident in the back as well, with Vidic teamed up with Carrick, Ferdinand and Evans so far this season. It’ll also be interesting to see the Suarez-Evra confrontation one more time, although whether the two shake hands doesn’t seem that important anymore, especially because everything that will be going on around them.
For Liverpool, the keys defensively will be seeing how drops to mark Shinji Kagawa and keep as little as involved as possible, while seeing to it that the wings, with Valencia and probably Nani see as little one on one action as possible, which might create some problems for a Liverpool defense that is troubled by a not so confident and in-form keeper in Reina.
For United, it’s handling the speed of Sterling, and keeping Borini disgruntled on the right. Suarez will be in the middle, most likely, and as long as he isn’t joined by anyone from behind unchecked, it should be easier to handle him. Suarez did score in his last match against United, the 1-2 loss at Old Trafford, and his performance in the 3-1 win at Anfield on March 6, 2011, was probably his finest in a Liverpool outfit.
As far as statistics go, they might suggest a United win. Since 1999, three matches have ended in draws between the teams at Anfield. After the first two draws, United won their next away fixture against Liverpool. Regardless of numbers and streaks, this seems like a draw to me, with United usually happy to sit back and try to score through counter attacks when visiting their biggest rivals.