Liverpool Focus – Vital few days begin with Man Utd fixture

Second-placed Liverpool host fierce rivals Manchester United this weekend as Brendan Rodgers hopes to record his first Premier League point over the Red Devils as the Anfield outfit’s manager. The former Swansea boss guided the Merseysiders to two slender top-flight defeats against the eventual champions last term, but with Liverpool – and Daniel Sturridge in particular – in encouraging form, this promises to be a lively and competitive contest.

Liverpool’s preparation for the upcoming fixture has hardly been ideal – the Reds were forced into extra time by Notts County in the second round of the Capital One Cup in midweek, resulting in star men Steven Gerrard and striker Sturridge playing the entirety of the tie. Worse still, new centre-back Kolo Toure was taken off with an injury early in extra time and the former Manchester City and Arsenal defender is highly unlikely to be available for the clash against David Moyes’ men.

This presents a significant problem for Rodgers, who opted for the centre-back pairing of vice-captain Daniel Agger and the experienced Toure for the opening two Premier League fixtures this season. With Toure now injured and Uruguayan youngster Sebastian Coates also facing a lengthy lay-off, the Reds will have to place faith in out-of-favour Slovakian Martin Skrtel or rookie defender Andre Wisdom to partner Agger at the heart of the defence and try to keep last season’s top scorer, Robin van Persie, at bay.

Despite Toure’s absence and the problems it may cause, Rodgers is still in a position to rely on the players who have served him well during Liverpool’s 100% winning start to the campaign. Joe Allen and Aly Cissokho also picked up injuries against Notts County, but the duo have hardly been first-choice picks in recent line-ups. The Reds are still relatively competitive in midfield with Gerrard, Lucas and Jordan Henderson likely to play, while Jose Enrique is also almost certain to face United.

Meanwhile, Liverpool have also been drawn against the Old Trafford outfit in what promises to be a thrilling third round tie in the Capital One Cup. Manchester United against Liverpool is always a highly-anticipated game, but with controversial Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez set to return to action for that particular clash following his lengthy suspension for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic last term, there will be an additional layer of intrigue when the two sides meet next month.

But Suarez will only return for that fixture if Liverpool are able to keep hold of him this summer. Interest in the tricky forward appears to have cooled, but with transfer deadline day looming, the Reds may be expecting further offers to be made for their star man. Rodgers also has just a few days left to add further quality to the squad. The next few days could be vital in shaping Liverpool’s season.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Liverpool v Man Utd

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