Expect Steven Gerrard (centre) to be at his best for the match against arc-rivals Man United on Sunday. - AFP
THE big game on Sunday is more than your usual derby. It’s a fight for legitimacy by two of England’s most decorated clubs.
For Liverpool, it’s a game to validate whether the Reds are title challengers. It’s to prove that the quick attacking football is the foundation of what fans can expect in the years ahead as the ambers of title hopes start to flutter.
For Manchester United, it is about substantiating whether the recent spurt of form is not a smokescreen that has clouded the season so far for the outgoing champions of England.
But the game will undoubtedly be a big test of Liverpool’s progress so far this season, one that is a must-win or a statement game if you like. Whichever way you dice it, it’s a game that matters more than the valuable three points it represents.
Liverpool, after resting the past weekend, carry into Old Trafford a run of four victories on the trot, five in the last six games. That form means that Liverpool go into the game at Old Trafford with confidence. Some might say Liverpool are favourites even though the bookies say otherwise.
The victory away at Southampton two weeks ago showed that Liverpool are able to graft out a victory. That game was a shot in the arm in terms of confidence and proved that the team have what it takes to really push on down the straight in the title run-in.
Brendan Rodgers indicated that training ahead of the showdown was intense, not because of design but due to the players really showing what the game means to them.
Statistically though, the odds are against Liverpool although fans can almost taste victory. United have won eight of the last nine games at Old Trafford against Liverpool. But, like any derby, anything can happen and the last time Liverpool won a game in the past nine matches at Old Trafford was a 4-1 victory in the 2008/09 season, which was also the last time Liverpool contended for the title.
With that in mind, I expect things to be much closer than before with both teams having their first team players fit and ready to battle.
To me, the game on Sunday is like the 2005 European Champions League semi-final against Chelsea. That day, the fans at Anfield were the most amazing I have seen and heard in my time watching football.
There was a hunger for victory, a yearning to re-establish Liverpool’s European Cup legacy.
The game is the same, with the prize being the only difference – but nonetheless equally important.
Jagdev Singh Sidhu has booked a victory for Liverpool against Manchester United at Old Trafford.