Manchester United face another test of their title credentials at Liverpool

Liverpool v Manchester United, Premier League, March 6, 2011

Liverpool 2.910; Draw 3.290; Manchester United 2.680

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Manchester United’s defeat on Tuesday night to Chelsea has left the title race wide open and by the time Sir Alex Ferguson’s side arrive at Anfield, there could be just a one point difference between the top two in the Premier League.

Liverpool may only have an outside chance of securing a Champions League spot next season but they will likely be hell bent to cause damage to Manchester United’s pursuit of a 19th title which would of course take them ahead of the Merseyside giants.

The big team news for Liverpool is that 35 million pound striker Andy Carroll looks set to be fit for the encounter after taking part in a full training session for the first time on Tuesday. The return of the former Newcastle number nine will be a huge fillip for the club following a disappointing result at West Ham last time out.

It would be a surprise if Carroll starts alongside Luis Suarez in the new-look Liverpool attack post Fernando Torres, Kenny Dalglish was coy about it in his press conference on Thursday, but he should be on the bench and will be a more than useful substitute to bring on. Liverpool also expect to have Raul Meireles, Daniel Agger and Fabio Aurelio available after they missed the defeat in East London.

Pepe Reina described his performance as “poor” at West Ham and he will be looking to make amends against United. The Spaniard has been linked with Liverpool’s great rivals and it would be no surprise to see him produce a fine performance as Reina and his side look for revenge for losing twice already at Old Trafford this season.

Of real concern for Sir Alex Ferguson coming into this match will be the absence of Nemanja Vidic who was sent off late in the piece against Chelsea. After the match Fergie tipped Wes Brown to come in alongside Chris Smalling in the centre of defence as Rio Ferdinand is expected to miss out once again due to a calf injury. Reports later on in the week hinted that Ferdinand may play if he recovers in time and Ferguson also has the option of moving John O’Shea into the middle.

Patrice Evra also came off with an injury, picked up when David Luiz scored Chelsea’s equaliser, so if the French full back misses out we could see Fabio or Rafael drafted in with a very inexperienced defence in front of Edwin van der Sar. After a gruelling game at Chelsea, Ferguson may also bring in Dimitar Berbatov after he just played 20 minutes at Stamford Bridge.

Liverpool have won this fixture for two seasons now and it is fair to say that this is a match of huge significance for United. After defeats to Wolves and Chelsea, following an unbeaten run for so long, their weaknesses have been shown up for all to see in tough away games.

This is exactly the sort of match where titles are won and United will have to dig deep without the famed and hugely successful central defensive pairing of Vidic and Ferdinand. With Liverpool smelling blood, Arsenal could be celebrating another United defeat on Sunday afternoon.

101gg predicts: Liverpool 2 – Manchester United 1

Liverpool 2.910; Draw 3.290; Manchester United 2.680

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