Anfield plays host to what is always one of the biggest games of the Premier League season, on Sunday. Liverpool v Manchester United is one of the most anticipated games each year, and is what both sets of fans look out for first, when the fixtures are released.
This year, more than ever will be extremely poignant, as it is the first game to be played at Anfield since the Hillsborough documents have been released. This will act as a catalyst for a massive performance from the Liverpool team, as they understand they are representing more than just the club on Sunday.
Liverpool come into the game, still yet to win in the Premier League season, with just two points after four games. The lack of attacking options has been frustrating for Liverpool fans who have witnessed some tremendous build-up play, with no end product. There has been many positives to take from the opening few games, including the impressive start from Joe Allen.
Allen came into the squad, on the back of a £15 million move from Rodgers’ old club, Swansea. The high price-tag raised many eyebrows, but the Welshman has settled in seamlessly, and has been integral in the impressive passing game Rodgers’ has attempted to install in the squad. His pass completion ratio at Swansea and Liverpool is 93% in 38 games, the highest currently at the club. He keeps his passes short and simple and keeps the moves ticking along, a player we have lacked since Xabi Alonso. Allen’s range of passing isn’t as impressive as Alonso’s just yet, but given time, he could slot into a similar role which was so successful during Alonso’s time at the club.
The return of skipper Steven Gerrard, who was rested along with many other first team players, for the victory over Young Boys in the Europa League mid-week, will add a boost to the side. As Gerrard knows just how important it is, and how much it means to the fans, to beat Manchester United.
Suarez has been his usual impressive self so far this season, without his performances being rewarded with the goals he really deserves. He is incredibly creative, and the way he glides past opponents is a pleasure on the eye. But once he has found himself, in and around the box, his finishing lacks the quality needed to prove himself as a brilliant out and out striker. He is being played often as the spearhead of a three-pronged attack, with the other two drifting in from wide positions. His finishing is clearly not good enough to be played as the lone-striker, and one must be brought in, in January. That’s not to say he doesn’t score goals however. He has the ability to provide sprinklings of magic and can pull a majestic strike out of nowhere, as was seen on many occasions last year. His link-up play with youngster Raheem Sterling has been impressive and the pair look set to hold Liverpool’s main chances of goals at the weekend.
Suarez will be looking to come out of the fixture in a positive light, after last years fixture ended in Suarez being accused of racially abusing United left-back Patrice Evra. There has been much hype over the handshake before the game on Sunday, after he famously refused to shake Evra’s hand last time at Old Trafford. He will be keen to let his feet do the talking this time around, and the Uruguayan knows the best way for that to happen, is to get on the score-sheet.
Manchester United have picked themselves up from their opening game loss to Everton, to go on and win the next three games, and will be hoping to avoid losing any more points on Merseyside.
Robin Van Persie has been in fantastic form for his new club, scoring four goals in four games, including a hat-trick in a 3-2 victory at Southampton. His partnership with Rooney has has the potential to be one of the strongest in the world, and is sure to strike fear into defences across the Premier League, and Liverpool will be thankful that Rooney is still missing for the clash on Sunday.
David de Gea has responded well to the heavy criticism he faced due to a number of poor performances last year, staking his claim to keep the number one spot this year, ahead of Anders Lindergaard. De Gea has always been renowned as a brilliant shot-stopper, but his positional awareness and command of his box, has often been disappointing. Last season he was in inspired form at Anfield, pulling off numerous sensational saves, and helped his side to a 1-1 draw, he knows what it takes to play in high pressure games, and will be hopeful of a clean sheet against Liverpool.
The game will be extremely tight, and there won’t be too many goals, with both teams focusing on defences. Vidic has never had much luck against Liverpool and Suarez will be hoping to exploit this. It is likely Vidic will sit off Suarez, and give him space, after being torn apart two seasons ago, and by Torres for many years before it. This could be dangerous, and work into the hands of Suarez, who seems to strike the ball better from distance, than he does from inside the box. The current price of 15/2 for Suarez first-scorer looks massive value, as Liverpool will be looking to get out of the blocks quickly in front of what is sure to be a terrific home support. This point could also point towards the 12/1 for Vidic to be first man booked, and 2/1 for him to be carded at any-time. Very tempting odds.
You can guarantee that Brendan Rodgers will have gotten across just how important this fixture is to his players, and with Gerrard leading by example, you can expect Liverpool to be ahead by half-time. However, with the likes of RVP and Kagawa attacking a Liverpool defence who have looked shaky this season, in the second half, it is going to be incredibly difficult to keep a clean sheet. RVP has a knack of scoring late goals against Liverpool, and the 5/1 for him to be last scorer, looks a brilliant bet. As does the 14/1 for Liverpool to be leading at half-time and the match to end in a draw.
It will be an extremely tight game, and the 1-1 scoreline which occurred last year, could well be the bet. Regardless of the outcome, Liverpool will be hoping to put in a massive performance, in memory of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, and we can only hope that both sets of fans can put aside their differences and make sure the atmosphere doesn’t turn sour.
1 point: Suarez FGS @ 15/2 StanJames
1 point: Liverpool HT/ Draw FT @ 16/1 Badog
1 point: RVP LGS @ 5/1 – Various
2 points: Vidic to be shown a card @ 2/1 – SkyBet
0.5 point: Vidic to be first carded @ 12/1 – Various
0.5 pont: Suarez FGS & 1-1 @ 60/1 – William Hill