This fixture, so early on in the Carling Cup, is perhaps one we would have wanted to avoid. United are a strong side and to face them at any stage of a cup competition is daunting. However, I would argue that they are currently on the ropes and that this fourth round tie is an ideal one for us to rub their noses in their downtrodden start to the season. They have only managed one point in three games against leading sides and we have already beaten them at Anfield only a few weeks ago. David Moyes is struggling and after Di Canio’s early exit, I’d say that the new United manager must be the bookie’s favourite to be the next Premiership manager to face dismissal.
The Carling Cup is traditionally used to bed in fringe and youth players, though with the gravity of today’s opponenets, I can see Brendan Rodgers choosing a strong side to face them. We aren’t in Europe this year so that makes the domestic cups all the more important. The Carling Cup is a very winnable trophy and we should do all we can to further our goals in this competition.
Of course, the big news is that Luis Suarez is back available for selection after his ten match ban expired. What a game for our star striker to return to! He will relish the prospect of facing old adversaries such as Patrice Evra, and should he be picked in the starting eleven, we can expect big things from King Luis.
We’ve got some injuries setting us back. Glen Johnson will still be out, which is a real loss after he turned in a fantastic display in our previous game against Man United this season. Philippe Coutinho has a successful operation on his shoulder but is still likely to be missing for a month. Aly Cissokho is still out and Daniel Agger is unlikely to play after coming off injured against Southampton and admitting he shouldn’t have made himself available for selection for that game. Good news is that Enrique should be fit enough to return and also there is no reason why Martin Kelly cannot fit in defensively, thus eliminating our over-reliance on central defenders last Saturday. Will Joe Allen step in for the under-performing captain, Steven Gerrard? I hope not as I think we need our talisman to fire up the ranks in such an intimidating away stadium. Maybe because it is the Carling Cup and essentially a test ground for youth players, there will be room for either Raheem Sterling or Jordan Ibe somewhere in the attack. I think both had strong preseasons and warrant a game or two in the campaign and maybe this is an ideal fixture to let them loose. Whether the on-form Daniel Sturridge will feature from the start is a question? He might get initially rested and come on from the bench as an impact player, should we need him.
On the United front, it looks as though their lead goalscorer, Robin Van Persie, will still be out injured after failing to make the Man City game on the weekend. Defenders, Rafael and Phil Jones are likely to also be sitting out with injuries, though wingers Wilfried Zaha and Nani both should be available for selection. Wayne Rooney is likely to prove a dangerous opponent, with a record of three goals against Liverpool in the last three home fixtures against them. The former Evertonian hates us Kopites with a passion and with the pressure clearly on his team for this match we can expect him to come out all guns blazing.
I think that Moyes will be desperate for victory though this could lead to him making mistakes in over-exerting his players. Brendan Rodgers needs to keep his cool and bring up the team’s performance to the standard they were setting right at the start of this season. All being well, we should progress and I think that circumstances are certainly in our favour. It will be a challenge, but who, as a Liverpool fan, will not relish defeating our bitter rivals for the second time this season?
The match kicks off at 7.45pm and is being televised on Sky Sports 1.