Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester
Kick off 13:30 (UK) / 08:30 (ET) on Sunday Jan. 13, 2013.
One of the Premier League's biggest fixtures of the season takes place on Sunday with table-toppers Manchester United hosting eternal Northwest rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford.
Always a match that attracts viewers from all over the world, this game sees the hosts leading the visitors by a whopping 21 points at this stage in the season. But with Liverpool in steadily improving form, it should be an entertaining clash.
With second-placed Manchester City not in action until Sunday afternoon, United will be hoping for a win to take them at least temporarily 10 points clear at the top of the league table. Liverpool, on the other hand, are looking for a win which would put them level on points with Arsenal—who face City at home in the other clash on Sunday.
Team News Latest
Rumours abound that United boss Alex Ferguson is looking to replace goalkeeper David de Gea, who has again this season been in and out of the side, sharing first-team duties with Anders Lindegaard. He should, however, retain his place for this match, having kept two clean sheets in his past two matches.
Ferguson will have a decision to make over Nemanja Vidic, who played in the league game at home to West Brom and in the FA Cup tie against West Ham, but is still recuperating from a long injury layoff. The Serbian has played only seven times in the league this season, and his presence would be a big boost to United's defence, though he has never had a particularly good time against Liverpool, being sent off three times.
For Liverpool themselves, Daniel Sturridge is in line for a league debut having made a goal-scoring start to his Reds career in the FA Cup.
The defence should remain unchanged with Andre Wisdom, who signed a new contract with the club this week, continuing at right-back and Glen Johnson on the left.
Perhaps the biggest question for manager Brendan Rodgers will be over whether to play Joe Allen or Jordan Henderson, who started the victory over Sunderland, as the third central midfielder alongside Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard.
The Premier League's top two goal-scorers, Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez, will go head-to-head, looking to increase their tallies of 16 and 15 respectively.
United are likely to be without forward Wayne Rooney for the game after his manager ruled him out for three weeks—but it wouldn't be the first time a United player made a miraculous comeback in time for a big game, so there are no guarantees.
Nani and Anderson both have hamstring injuries to deal with but have started only seven league games between them anyway, while Phil Jones is also a doubt.
Liverpool are missing Martin Kelly with a long-term knee injury sustained against Manchester United at Anfield last year, but forward Fabio Borini is closing in on a return after three months out with a broken foot bone.
Jose Enrique is the only other absentee after suffering a torn hamstring.
Sitting top of the league table, it will be no surprise to learn that United are in great form, winning eight of their last nine league matches and drawing the other one.
The defensive record has picked up of late with two clean sheets in a row, having conceded 10 goals in the five league matches previous to that. United are far and away the top scorers in the division, having scored 54 so far—13 clear of their nearest rival.
Liverpool have been on a much-improved run since the start of December after being thoroughly inconsistent beforehand. The Reds have won seven of their last nine in all competitions and five of their last seven in the league.
Goal-scoring has remained an issue, but the improved form of the likes of Steven Gerrard and Stewart Downing, the signing of Sturridge and the goals of Suarez could bring about an end to that problem.
Liverpool need to win to stand a chance of rising to seventh place (depending on West Brom's result on Saturday) which would be their highest league placing of the season so far.
Premier League, Anfield, United won 2-1 (Sept. '12)
Premier League, Old Trafford, United won 2-1 (Feb. '12)
FA Cup, Anfield, Liverpool won 2-1 (Jan. '12)
Premier League, Anfield, Draw 1-1 (Oct. '11)
Premier League, Anfield, Liverpool won 3-1 (Mar. '11)
Statistics and Facts
Liverpool have used 390 players in this fixture down the years—United have used 405.
The Reds' biggest win over United in the modern era was 4-0 in 1990 at Anfield.
What will the outcome of the match be?
Jamie Carragher has made 33 appearances in this fixture (a Liverpool record) but has never scored; he did, however, manage two own goals in the same game in 1999.
Steven Gerrard is the highest-scoring current player from either squad, with seven goals in this fixture. United's current highest is Ryan Giggs with five.
Only eight players have ever transferred directly between the two rivals. The last was Phil Chisnell (United to Liverpool) in 1964.
Undoubtedly a tight and tense affair which United will be the favourites in, but Liverpool's improved form and the gap at the top means a draw might feel like a positive enough result for both teams: 2-2.
Statistical data from WhoScored.com, historical data derived from lfchistory.net