Key battles on Sat

Liverpool waterfront

Image by djmcaleese via Flickr

LFC will face their toughest challenge of the season so far when table-topping Manchester United travel to Anfield for the biggest match of week eight in the English Premier League. The last time that Sir Alex Ferguson came into the ring with Kenny Dalglish on the Reds’ home turf, his Red Devils were sent home on the back end of a Dirk Kuyt hat trick. Steven Gerrard, unfortunately, did not play another game after the Reds defeated United, but it looks like he could return for his first full match in literally the same fixture he left. He may feel as though he never left.

This will be one of the biggest matches of the young season. It will be a major statement for Liverpool if they can get a result at home, as it would see them become almost instant title contenders if they defeat such a top level club.

1 Rooney v Carragher

There is no greater threat to the Reds goal than Wayne Rooney on his current form for Manchester United. The EPL’s leading scorer will surely be covered by the one and only Jamie Carragher. Liverpool’s veteran defender will have to use all of his experience to manage keeping Rooney to a minimal threat. In all honesty, I do not see either Carragher or Skrtel with the ability to completely shut Rooney down at the moment, and it will be more of a mission of damage control against the English forward. However, the X-factor for Rooney will be if he is thrown off his game by the national team benching he recently received, and his frustration over being red carded and possibly missing the open rounds of the 2012 European Championships.

Winner Rooney

2 Kelly v Nani

The Reds’ young defender, Martin Kelly, will surely face his toughest task of the season when he comes face to face with Nani at Anfield. His Portuguese opponent has been on the top of his game so far this season, with it looking to be truly his break-out year for the Red Devils. Ashley Young will also have some time against Kelly, as the two wide players are sure to switch flanks at times, as Sir Alex Ferguson has his charges probe the Reds for any weakness they can find. Kelly got a rough time against Spurs and I don’t see this being any different unless he gets more support from the right midfield.

Winner Nani

3 Young v Enrique

Another stand-out for United has been Ashley Young, as he and Nani have terrorized fullbacks all season long. José Enrique already looked to have some trouble when he was outpaced at Tottenham, and while he has obvious talent and has arguably been the Reds’ best signing, his inability to keep pace could cause him much trouble. As mentioned, Nani will also probably see time against Enrique, who will have to manage his game a little closer to home this match than in previous ones. However, Enrique got a lot more protection from his midfield, and the left side seems to be a strength after being a weakness for so many years.

Draw

4 Gerrard v Fletcher

Steven Gerrard should make his full return after another two full weeks of training thanks to the International break. After three straight cameos, there is no way I expect him to miss out on a clash of rivals like this. He was part of the Liverpool side that defeated the Red Devils 3-0 at home, thanks to a Dirk Kuyt in front of the Kop. Ironically, that was the last time the Reds’ captain made a full appearance, as the following week he was ruled out due to his groin that eventually sidelined him up until now. Darren Fletcher will most likely be the deeper midfielder that ends up tasked to deal with Gerrard, and the Scot will need all of his skills about him in order to contain the attacking midfielder.

Winner Gerrard

5 Vidic v Suarez

United’s Nemanja Vidic is expected to get a return call to the Red Devils first team on Saturday. Luis Suarez helped tear the United defense apart last March, and Vidic will be hoping to get the better of the Uruguayan this go around at Anfield. The real issue will be if Suarez has found his scoring boots after he was gifted a goal in the Merseyside Derby on the first day of the month and scored in the previous match against Wolves. The month of September saw the majority of his shots lack his usual finishing touch, and the crowd will be hoping they “just can’t get enough” of Suarez on the weekend.

Winner Suarez

6 Dalglish v Ferguson

This will perhaps be the biggest match of the first half of the season for Liverpool, as it will set the tone for the rest of their run towards the January halfway point. Luis Suarez will have to be on the top of his game, while the return of Steven Gerrard could not come for a bigger game as he was instrumental in the Reds’ last home victory over Sir Alex Ferguson. It will also be a key battle between old rivals as Kenny Dalglish and Ferguson once again continue their rivalry from a technical standpoint. Over 25 years of managerial rivalry with Liverpool, Blackburn and Newcastle, the record stands at 10 wins for Fergie, 4 wins for Kenny and 9 draws.

Winner Fergie

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