If a match between the two most successful teams in English football needed a bit more needle, and believe me it doesn’t, then the presence of a certain Uruguayan at Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime should do the trick.
Liverpool travel to Manchester United with Luis Suarez back in their ranks following his eight-match suspension for using racially aggravated language towards United left-back Patrice Evra.
And with the two certain to come face-to-face for the first time since the incident in October, a vitriolic atmosphere awaits.
Whether he starts or not, Suarez will no doubt get dogs’ abuse from the home crowd and the whole unsavoury episode has deepened an already seismic chasm between the two sets of supporters. Yeah, I didn’t think that was possible either.
It certainly adds another edge to proceedings for the second meeting in three weeks between the clubs.
Kenny Dalglish got the better of Sir Alex Ferguson in the FA Cup fourth-round tie at Anfield last month, – the Reds securing a passage through with a 2-1 win courtesy of a late Dirk Kuyt strike – but the odds suggest that it will be a different story at Old Trafford and I would be tempted to agree.
United are favourites in bwin’s 3way football betting market at 4/5, with the draw at 5/2 and Liverpool priced up at 17/5 to make Ferguson’s nose go a deeper shade of purple.
Alas, I think Ferguson will be enjoying his post match bottle of wine. While I accept they remain a relative work in progress, I’ve written before that this United team is some way short in terms of quality of the great sides Ferguson has built (you don’t even have to mention that about Liverpool it is so obvious) – but they remain relentless in the pursuit of victory.
This is mainly down to the manager and even though the deficiencies are there for all to see – how they ended up 3-0 down at Chelsea is a mystery – at home they remain incredibly strong and I think they will beat a Liverpool side that is far too inconsistent.
It may be worth looking at the 7/4 that United are leading at half-time and go on to win. That has happened in seven of their nine home wins this season, as well as all of their eight away victories.
The Red Devils have suffered two catastrophic defeats at home this season against Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers, but otherwise their form is as expected. In their other ten home fixtures, United have won nine, scoring 32 goals in the process, and they continually find a way to beat the lesser lights in the division.
Liverpool are far from a lesser light, but they remain frustratingly unpredictable. The Reds had a brilliant week in disposing of both Manchester clubs in the domestic cups recently, but their league form has been patchy for some time. Liverpool have a 2-2-2 record in their last six in the Premier League and that has been pretty much par for the course.
Away from home, Dalglish’s men have lost three out of the last six, going down at Fulham, City and Bolton. And even if that diabolical performance in a 3-1 defeat at the Reebok seems like something of a watershed moment – Liverpool are unbeaten in games against City, United, Wolves and Tottenham since – their form isn’t convincing enough to make a case for them to win at Old Trafford.
Liverpool have lost five of their 12 away games and though much has been made about them raising their game in the bigger matches, it should be noted that they have been heavily beaten at both Tottenham and Manchester City already this season.
So the 4/5 on a United win seems about right. However, it may be worth looking at the 7/4 that United are leading at half-time and go on to win. That has happened in seven of their nine home wins this season, as well as all of their eight away victories. In Liverpool’s five away defeats, they have been behind at half time on four occasions.
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