Liverpool: Likely First XI Against Manchester United
It may be too early in the Premier League season to call any match a "must-win."
However, for Liverpool, it is pretty close to that. At the very least, this is a "must get a point."
First off, the Reds have only taken three points from four league matches. Second, the Red Devils are their biggest rivals. Third, this one holds extra weight after the utterly classless chant made by Manchester United fans a week ago.
Sir Alex Ferguson has since decried such behavior. However, the damage is done. The Kop will want some form of retribution on the pitch.
Here is the likely group of starters you should see on Sunday.
GK: Pepe Reina
The Spaniard has not had the best start to the season thus far. Certainly, Brendan Rodgers will expect more from this senior player over time.
However, we are miles from having the Brad Jones conversation. Reina's long tenure Merseyside merits him the benefit of the doubt as he fights to find his top form.
RB: Martin Kelly
In case you missed the Europa League clash at midweek, Jose Enrique looked awful.
Enrique did not look like a man seeking to regain his starting place. The other options—Andre Wisdom, Jon Flanagan, and Jack Robinson—are not quite far enough along in their development to challenge Kelly yet.
Thus, the English international should be the unquestioned starter at either of the two full-back posts.
CB: Martin Skrtel
Liverpool really has only two serious options at center-back at the moment. The big Slovakian undoubtedly falls into that category.
Skrtel is not quite the tactical defender that Rodgers prizes. However, he does fit the less technical enforcer role to the letter. He should start all year, barring health concerns.
CB: Daniel Agger
Agger fits the new 4-3-3 perfectly. It showcases his underrated ability on the ball and allows him to get forward on occasion as he likes to do.
The Reds are a completely different team when he is on the pitch.
LB: Glen Johnson
Kelly's inclusion pushes Johnson onto the left flank. Fortunately, he seems to be able to function well on either side.
Johnson has had a solid season thus far. However, he will want to avoid mental lapses like the one seen at Sunderland a week ago.
CDM/CM: Joe Allen
Joe Allen is one of the major standouts of the young season. His pass completion rate is impressive. The Welshman's assurance on the ball is that of someone far beyond his years.
Allen continues to occupy the back of the midfield with Lucas out.
CM: Steven Gerrard
Brendan Rodgers learned his lesson pretty quickly that Gerrard is better suited in a less forward role. Expect to see him at the center of the midfield.
"Captain Fantastic" seems the most comfortable in this position. That said, he has to improve his passing. Some of his more careless balls have led to costly counterattacks on multiple occasions. Liverpool needs more from its talisman.
ACM: Jonjo Shelvey
With Lucas out, Jordan Henderson, Nuri Sahin and Jonjo Shelvey are the remaining competition for the last starting place in midfield.
Both Sahin and Henderson failed to impress at midweek. Conversely, Shelvey came in off the bench and netted two goals.
Shelvey is a rising star on Merseyside. He is proving well worth the money paid to Charlton Athletic just a few short years ago.
RW: Fabio Borini
The Italian has not quite yet found the killer instinct at Anfield. However, his astute positioning and tactical awareness gives hopeful signs of things to come.
Despite not making it on the scoresheet, Borini was on solid form against Young Boys at midweek. Hopefully that improvement continues as Liverpool desperately need a more consistent goal scorer.
LW: Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling joins Shelvey as a candidate for breakout star of the year.
His fearlessness in going at defenders is shocking given his inexperience at this level. Rodgers may have discovered a star of the future in this young English international.
ST: Luis Suarez
While many (including me) claim that Suarez is out of place leading the line, he is the best option for now.
The Uruguayan is not a world class finisher. However, no one does a better job of making things happen up front. He constantly harries defenders and is about as good as it gets at creating chances.
He is an unquestioned starter every week. Anfield will be crossing their fingers that he can score often enough to keep the Reds competitive until the January transfer window.
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