Grand Slam Breakfast

Liverpool vs. Manchester United

Premier League

3:30pm (8:30am EST) Sunday, December 16.

The Lowdown: Although each of the managers will tell you this isn’t a make-or-break match in terms of the title race, both the Goateed One and Sir Alex will admit to the Hugeness of this fixture. Always an emotional affair, it’s a meeting of two equally powerful forces whose collision can result in explosive and mind-blowing results like matter & anti-matter, pasta & antipasta or my liver & Guinness meet.

Even if it ends up zeros, the chances are it’ll be a tightly contested and entertaining match.

“But don’t take my word for it…”

Rafa on the Battle for the Northwest:

You must give credit to Alex Ferguson because he has managed these top class players for a long time. These players are really good. It’s not easy to stop them but when you put your players on the pitch, they know what to do.

He can expect it to be difficult, physical and tough because they have experienced players. It will be similar to the Chelsea game but with even more rivalry between the two teams.”  

More important than the points is the confidence you could get from winning. If you can beat United or Arsenal, the confidence the team gets can be really important.

I am thinking about our game. To beat United for me will be enough.

SAF admits that he enjoys the rough stuff:

Liverpool against United is a massive game, maybe the biggest there is in England, so we have to start preparing for it. We know we can get a victory and and our confidence is obviously high as well.

We all remember the outcome of last year’s fixture at Anfield (and if you don’t, I’m sure the media will be happy to remind you). But John O’Shea will likely not play much of a role in this match as he struggles to pick up his jock with a groin injury. SAF will also be missing the Ginger Princess, Paul Scholes, who isn’t slated to return from knee problems until after the New Year.

The crusty old Scot himself is lucky to be managing this one after picking up a two-match ban from the FA for making a ref cry abusing an official. But because he is afforded a grace period after being notified, the punishment won’t go into effect until the end of the month.

United come to Anfield having rebounded from the Bolton loss with two Premier League victories (Fulham & Derby) and a win and a draw in the Champion’s League (Sporting & Roma). Sitting one point behind leaders Arsenal, the Red Devils’ away form has been less than stellar with three wins, two draws and two losses. Unsurprisingly, their goal-scoring productivity drops off when away from Old Trafford. The Mancs have only scored nine times on the road (as opposed to 20 at home) for an away goal difference of +3.

Despite those numbers, C Ronaldo (the ‘C’ stands for ‘Cunt’) has had no problem scoring, having netted six times in his last five league games (going back to the beginning of November). Although this haul has been a boon for my fantasy team, Clash City FC, I’ll be more than happy to see him come up empty-footed this weekend.

For Liverpool, this match intersects with a rich vein of form. The last eight matches (dating back to the begining of November) have seen the boys score 26 while allowing only 4 (three of those being at Reading). Stevie G and El Nino are leading the charge and have been rightfully fingered as the Danger Men by United (indie band name alert — “The Danger Men by United”). The captain has four goals in the last league matches (and four in four), whilst my Man Crush has two in the last five (not counting CL and the Newcastle game which could have seen a hat trick if not for bad luck).

Rafa would like to see the goal glut continue:

The players know we like to win and score goals. You try to explain that when you are winning 2-0, you must try to score more goals. Our supporters will enjoy that situation, so it’s important to keep that in the minds of the players.

Sunday should also see the grand return of one Xabi Alonso to the pitch. While his fitness is obviously below par, he’ll have a role to play, such as putting the ball on Torres’ foot from 40+ yards. Some say he’ll start… *shrug* I can see an argument being made for either a start or a late walk-on. But, his impact would likely be highest from the get-go.

The DAgger will not take part this week, as Rafa has ruled that he needs more time. Also, Steve Finnan is still feeling the effects of a kick to the calf and will be missed. But, Mascherano sounds like he’s chomping at the bit, shrugging off his Marseille injury as a harmless kick to the shin.

I’d very much like to see a line-up close to the one employed at Marseille this week. Torres up front with Kuyt (though Voronin would be just as useful). Kewell got taken off early and should be ready for another start. There’s no reason Yossi shouldn’t be fit for the right wing again.

Will it be Gerrard & Alonso reunited (and it feels so good) in the center of midfield? Or will Rafa play Torres up front alone and include Mascherano in the midfield? Carra, Hyypia and Reina are no-brainers, but will we see Arbeloa on the right with Aurelio on the left? Or will Riise and his missing laser left foot be risked get another start after a solid performance?

Lucas will likely have to replace Alonso, so I give him a seat on the bench. Itandje is obviously there. Babel also makes the cut with Hobbs also there to take notes. Some striker is getting dropped. But whom?

This ought to be a real cracker. All I really ask is that the boys start and play the game with the same level of determination and intelligence that they displayed against OM.

Five Questions TBA:

  1. 4-4-2 or 4-5-1? You’d think at home there almost have to be two strikers, but…

  2. Can Liverpool keep the lid on Ronaldo?

  3. When will Mother Nature & Father Time reign Giggs back in?

  4. Will Gerrard & Torres continue their assault on opposing goals?

  5. If Mascherano tackles Saha, will the Frenchman just shatter into thousands of pieces?

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