Anfield Cauldron Too Much for United?
FA Cup Fourth Round Preview: Liverpool vs Manchester United. Football lovers around the world have marked their calendars for this big game. Who will win?
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Football lovers around the world were looking ahead in their calendars to make sure they would be free for the mouth-water prospect of watching, what is already being built up to be one of the games of the season’s, as Liverpool FC play host the bitter rivals Manchester United at Anfield, on the 28 January in the FA Cup Fourth Round. As the two most successful clubs in the history of the competition prepare to lock horns with each other, the usually white hot affair promises to be even more heated due to the controversies surrounding Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez.
Both clubs would see this game as a must win as it would not only take them one step closer to Wembley, but moreover it would provide a significant mental boost for the winning team as the 2011/2012 approaches its home stretch. For United this could mean greater confidence in its push to topple its city rivals from top spot, as for Liverpool it could provide much needed relief from what has been a rather gloomy start to the New Year for the club and once again galvanise the club to push for that elusive fourth place Champions League spot.
Upon examining the two clubs on recent form it is clear that both clubs have not been at their vintage best and have been in what can only be best described as a stuttering form. Based on such form it is difficult to pick the winner.
Manchester United since their 6-1 drubbing at the hands of cross city rivals Manchester City late October last year, have not fully recovered to rediscover their early season form which saw the tear apart Arsenal in an 8 – 2 trashing. United have also been plagued by injury troubles and their current injury list includes the likes of Jonny Evans, Ashley Young, Darren Fletcher, Nemanja Vidic, Fabio, Michael Owen, and Tom Cleverly. However of those, Evans and Fabio are expected to be back for the big game clash, and United will also be buoyed by the fact that club veteran Paul Scholes has come out of retirement to aid the team through this difficult period. Recent rumours of a rift between Rooney and Ferguson have not helped in stabilising the club in the midst of such an injury crisis. However it is important to note that in United’s most recent triumph, was knocking out Manchester City of the League Cup in a thrilling encounter which saw them edge City 3-2. United also remain the second highest scoring club in the Premier League only trailing leaders Manchester City. Even with such an extensive list of injuries, United remain a potent goal scoring threat with the likes of Rooney, Giggs, Valencia, Nani, Park, Wellbeck and Berbatov.
In contrast to the free scoring season that United has had, Liverpool are going through what seems to be a goal scoring drought. With the departure of Fernando Torres last season, Liverpool also bid farewell to one of its most potent strikers. To fill the void left behind by the Spaniard Liverpool looked to hire the services of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez (who was in fact brought in to partner Torres). However for reasons beyond the scope of this article, Liverpool’s forward line has failed to deliver what is needed most, which is goals. Of the top 7 clubs in the premier league, Liverpool remains the lowest scoring club. Liverpool will have a huge blow in that Liverpool’s main talisman this season, Luis Suarez will continue to serve his 8-match ban from the FA. This leaves behind a misfiring Andy Carroll to take over as Liverpool’s main striker. Throughout this season the big Geordie number 9 has copped a lot of criticism for not delivering what Liverpool expect of him, which is goals. However the big man has failed to rediscover the form that had made him one of the Premier League’s hottest properties early last season. Many Liverpool “analysts” often fail to look at the lack of quality goal chances made for Carroll this season. However with the recent return of Captain “Fantastic,” Steven Gerrard and the blistering form of a re-born Craig Bellamy Liverpool may just be able to get the best of Andy Carroll. It is important to note that Liverpool this season have one of the best defensive records with the back line of Johnson, Agger, Skertal, and Enrique proving to be one of the best back fours in the Premier League.
On paper it is difficult to pick a winner, but if one had to choose on paper, and I stress the words on paper, they would go with Manchester United purely because of their attacking threat, because after all if you can’t score a goal, you can’t win a game. However it is important to note that this game will be played at Anfield. Liverpool’s recent home form against United in recent seasons has been nothing less than impressive and the cauldron-like atmosphere that is to be expected at Anfield might just get to one or two of the younger United squad members and may force a mistake or two and allow Liverpool in. Whoever the favourite, this game is building up to be one of the biggest games of the season and is a one to watch. Can United pip the bitter rivals like last season’s 1-0 third round FA Cup win? Or will Liverpool emerge victorious as they come out to play in front of their home crowd with a point to prove? Your thoughts?