Resurgent Manchester United stalk hurting Liverpool
LONDON // Manchester United will relish the opportunity to inflict more pain on wounded foes Liverpool when the teams renew their heated rivalry at Old Trafford in the English Premier League this weekend.
Liverpool won both league fixtures against United last season, triumphing 3-0 on their last visit to Sir Matt Busby Way in March, en route to finishing 20 points clear of their cross-county rivals in the final standings.
But the tables have since turned and while United go into the weekend in pursuit of a sixth consecutive victory – a run that has lifted Louis van Gaal’s side to third place – Liverpool’s confidence is at a low.
Having made a dismal start to their league campaign, Liverpool’s season nose-dived further on Tuesday when they were eliminated from the Champions League in the group phase following a 1-1 draw at home to Basel.
Memories of last season’s thrilling title bid are fading fast at Anfield, but midfielder Joe Allen says his side will draw encouragement from their last performance at Old Trafford when they make their return on Sunday.
“We had a fantastic result there last season, so we’ll be looking to draw some confidence and inspiration from that performance and we’ll go there and try to get the win,” the Wales international told the Liverpool website.
“They are great games to play in between two clubs who are massive globally and there’s a great rivalry between the clubs. These matches are great to be a part of.
“Last season it was a great feeling to go to Old Trafford and get the three points and all of the players want that feeling again.”
Liverpool remain without injured striker Daniel Sturridge, while Mario Balotelli has not played for over a month, but United have injury problems as well.
Chris Smalling sustained a groin injury during United’s 2-1 win at Southampton on Monday, joining Phil Jones, Luke Shaw, Angel di Maria and Daley Blind on the sidelines.
While Liverpool crashed out of the Champions League in mid-week, Manchester City secured their place in the last 16 with a superb 2-0 victory away to Serie A title contenders Roma.
It followed a run of four straight league wins that has seen the champions whittle leaders Chelsea’s advantage down to just three points ahead of Saturday’s trip to bottom club Leicester City.
City will learn the identity of their next Champions League opponents on Monday, but goalkeeper Joe Hart has urged his team-mates not to lose focus in their quest to topple Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
“We are confident we can do well against anyone, but it is Leicester now and we have to turn our eyes to that,” the England international said. “That’s our next big game.”
Chelsea saw their unbeaten run come to an end at Newcastle United last weekend, but goalkeeper Petr Cech believes Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League has restored momentum.
“It’s always important to win, especially when you lose a game in the league,” said the Czech, who will give way for Thibaut Courtois for Saturday’s home game with third-bottom Hull City.
Arsenal failed to claim top spot in their Champions League group despite winning 4-1 at Galatasaray, but the victory allowed them to draw a line beneath last weekend’s dispiriting 3-2 loss at Stoke City.
Arsene Wenger’s side have lost three of their last five league matches and midfielder Aaron Ramsey, whose side host in-form Newcastle on Saturday, says they must raise their game ahead of the hectic festive period.
“That is the thing we need to do now,” said the Wales international, who scored two goals in Istanbul, including a stunning 30-yard strike with his weaker left foot.
“We have a busy couple of weeks coming up now and hopefully we can take full advantage of them, and hopefully take maximum points throughout December.”
Southampton, who have slipped to fifth after three consecutive defeats, visit second-bottom Burnley, while high-flying West Ham United will look to tighten their grip on fourth place when they travel to Sunderland.
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Published: December 12, 2014 04:00 AM