The bit­ter­est of clashes is back

CityPress - - Sport -

One of the Premier League’s most fa­mous ri­val­ries is rekin­dled to­day when Manch­ester United face Liver­pool at An­field, while Arse­nal take on Stoke City.

For the Red Devils, the con­stant ac­cu­sa­tions that their foot­ball has been “bor­ing” this sea­son will have hurt al­most as much as the two dropped points in the 3-3 draw with New­cas­tle United on Tues­day.

That stale­mate with the Mag­pies fol­lowed a 2-1 suc­cess over Swansea that was their first win in seven games, so it’s back to the draw­ing board for man­ager Louis van Gaal.

Liver­pool have been far from con­sis­tent with their per­for­mances and re­sults this cam­paign, but they have shown a knack for beat­ing the teams above them in the stand­ings, with re­cent wins over Manch­ester City and Le­ices­ter City com­ing to mind, while Wed­nes­day’s 3-3 draw with Arse­nal showed they’re up for a good fight.

How­ever, the head-to-head record does not favour the hosts, as Liver­pool were beaten home and away by United last sea­son be­fore los­ing 3-1 at Old Traf­ford ear­lier in the cur­rent cam­paign. That be­ing said, the Reds have home­ground ad­van­tage, which could be a use­ful fac­tor in such a tra­di­tion­ally hot-blooded en­counter.

On the in­jury front, United will be with­out Bas­tian Sch­we­in­steiger (knee), Phil Jones (an­kle), An­to­nio Va­len­cia (an­kle), Mar­cos Rojo (dis­lo­cated shoul­der) and Luke Shaw (bro­ken leg).

For Liver­pool, the in­jury prob­lems are still pil­ing up, with Jor­don Ibe, Philippe Coutinho, Martin Škr­tel and Daniel Stur­ridge all out with ham­string in­juries, but de­fender De­jan Lovren (ham­string) could be avail­able.

Also to­day, Arse­nal will face Stoke City at the Bri­tan­nia Sta­dium know­ing they need a win to keep ahead of Le­ices­ter City in the ti­tle race, with Manch­ester lurk­ing within easy reach of the league lead­ers.

Their stale­mate with Liver­pool saw the Gun­ners drop points, and while they would have been dis­ap­pointed to let three goals through, the good news is that they’re still lethal at the other end of the pitch, while five wins from their last seven is hardly bad form. The Pot­ters, mean­while, are an al­most per­fect anal­ogy for the un­pre­dictabil­ity of this Premier League sea­son, with wins over Manch­ester United and Ever­ton fol­lowed by de­feat to West Brom, be­fore a 3-1 vic­tory over Nor­wich on Wed­nes­day got them back to win­ning ways.

Arse­nal will make the trip north with­out in­jured stars Santi Ca­zorla (knee), Jack Wil­shere (calf), To­mas Rosicky (knee) and Danny Wel­beck (knee). The good news is that Alexis Sánchez could be set to make his much-an­tic­i­pated re­turn from the knee in­jury that has kept him off the pitch since Novem­ber, but Arsène Wenger says he will be “cau­tious” with the Chilean, who will un­dergo a late fit­ness test.

For Stoke, Ge­off Cameron and Stephen Ire­land are slight doubts, with Marc Mu­niesa rated as less likely to be fit in time for the match, while vet­eran goal­keeper Shay Given is still a cou­ple of weeks away from his re­turn.

– TEAMtalk me­dia

PHOTO: ALEX LIVESY / GETTY IM­AGES

HOPE­FUL Liver­pool man­ager Jür­gen Klopp has home ground ad­van­tage

PHOTO: PHIL NO­BLE / REUTERS

READY Manch­ester United man­ager Louis van Gaal needs to go back to the draw­ing board

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