There’s something about today’s opponents that seems a little familiar. Oh, that’s because there is. The latest installment of the Manchester United-Liverpool rivalry was only two weeks ago, and after Liverpool nabbed a late win at Anfield that day, United are aiming for revenge in the form of a crucial league win at home today.
Valentine’s Day is next week, but there isn’t a lot of love between these two sides, so today’s encounter is sure to be a tense one. The backstory that is Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez facing off for the first time since their now-infamous interactions in October is garnering plenty of headlines coming in, understandably, but it shouldn’t distract from the fact that this is a crucial match for both sides and that a United win will put all the pressure on City to match the result tomorrow.
– United have won each of the last three home meetings with Liverpool, including two last season, a 3-2 league win and a 1-0 win in the third round of the FA Cup.
– United are 6-0-1 in their last seven home league meetings with Liverpool, with the only defeat being a 4-1 setback in March 2009.
1. After a 0-0 home draw with Tottenham on Monday, Liverpool find themselves seventh in the Premier League table with 39 points from 24 matches, but they’re only four points back of fourth-placed Chelsea in a tight race for fourth, with Newcastle (42) and Arsenal (40) both in the thick of the hunt as well.
2. A large part of the reason that Liverpool are bringing up the rear in the race for seventh instead of leading it is that they’ve been at home this season what United were away from home last season. Liverpool are unbeaten at home this season, but that unbeaten record consists of eight draws – all either 0-0 or 1-1 – and only four wins.
However, they’ve partly compensated for their lack of home wins by getting some big results away from home. Liverpool are 6-1-5 away from home this season, with two of those six wins being at Arsenal and at Chelsea. Also, Liverpool have recorded wins at Chelsea and City on the way to reaching this month’s Carling Cup final, in which they’ll face Championship side Cardiff.
3. It’s especially been an issue at home, but Liverpool haven’t scored with any consistency this season, despite the presence of some quality attacking talent. They’ve scored only 28 goals this season, 14 at home and 14 away from home, which ranks 12th in the league. Craig Bellamy leads Liverpool in goals with six, while Luis Suarez, who needs no introduction to United fans, has five.
4. Defensively, Liverpool have been impressive, as they’re second behind City in goals allowed with only 21. 13 of those goals have been allowed away from home, though it’s worth noting that they gave up three goals in consecutive matches at City and Bolton before blanking Wolves 3-0 in their last away fixture and that 10 of those 13 goals have been allowed in three games, those two defeats and a 4-0 defeat at Tottenham in September.
Those three games are the only times all season that Liverpool have allowed multiple goals in a league game, and it’s also worth noting that before the 3-0 defeat at City in early January, Liverpool hadn’t allowed multiple goals in their previous 14 league games.
Also, Liverpool have ten clean sheets in the league this season, with six of those coming away from home. If United score today, as they have in their last 42 home league games, it will bode well for their hopes for a win, as Liverpool are 1-0-5 in away games in which the opponent has scored, with the only win being their 2-1 win at Chelsea in November.
1. United are now two points back of City at the top of the Premier League table, but they’ll come into this weekend with a great deal of confidence for today and beyond. It’s not often that a draw will create excitement and generate momentum, but when you come back from 3-0 down in the second half to secure said draw against one of the league’s top leagues, it will do just that.
United need to build off of the momentum from Sunday’s thrilling comeback and make a real statement against Liverpool. Defeat at Anfield was extremely disappointing, but it’s a match that United could have and perhaps even should have won, and at home, you have to expect United to really put in a top-notch performance. With City facing a tricky trip to Aston Villa on Sunday, this weekend represents an opportunity to, at the very least, make up any numerical ground that was lost last weekend.
2. United have scored 59 goals this season, second behind City’s league-leading 63. 35 of those 59 goals have been scored in 12 home matches, with 16 of those 35 coming in United’s last five home ties.
3. As statistics help indicate, United have been dangerous in attack lately, and as stingy as Liverpool’s defense has been to this point, United will have a fair share of opportunities in attack today. Antonio Valencia performed well at Anfield two weeks ago, and he should be in line for a quality performance today at home. Valencia didn’t have as dominant of a performance against Chelsea as might have been expected with Ashley Cole absent, but he’s been in fine, fine form for the last few months, and that will continue today.
4. United’s prowess in attack will further be boosted by the welcome return of Tom Cleverley, who’s set to feature today after playing barely over an hour of Premier League football over the last five months due to his ankle. How much of an impact he’ll have is a mystery, but we know what potential he has and what he showed earlier this season before going down, so hope and hype are both understandably high.
Also on the injury front, Nani and Phil Jones are set to miss out today, but both should be back next Thursday when United visit Ajax in the Europa League. Can’t get them back soon enough, that’s for sure. Provided the injury bug doesn’t start cropping up once again (knock on wood), United will be in almost as good of a position as possible in regards to depth heading into the final few months of the season once Anders Lindegaard returns from his ankle injury.
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