The first major test of the season arrives. While Manchester City, Tottenham, Sevilla and West Ham weren’t exactly doddles, this is the first game where we will either make everyone think we’re able to stay the course in a title race for the first time in three years, or that our confidence will be shattered in this game and we’ll start dropping points all over the place. We’re looking for our thirteenth consecutive victory on Sunday after a supreme 7-0 victory in Europe, while Liverpool are looking for their first home win since the 6-0 against Derby. Since then they’ve drawn with such quality as Birmingham and Tottenham, and lost to Marseille.
Although, as United showed last season as they lost to us twice and failed to beat Chelsea, titles aren’t won in the big games against title rivals as much as they are won by being able to beat the shit teams, which we’ve shown ourselves to be quite proficient at so far this season. Having said that, we really need to win, to put Liverpool in their place, and to keep the distance between us and United, with them having won seven in a row in the league and starting to take teams apart rather than nick one nil victories.
After a strong start to the season, Liverpool have started to stutter a bit. After winning five of their first six games in all competitions, they’ve now won only three of their last nine, including a loss away to Besiktas. Although they are still unbeaten in the league, their performances have been far from convincing. They came perilously close to losing at home to Tottenham of all teams, and were it not for a convincing dive from Gerrard and some inexplicably terrible refereeing they probably would have lost the Merseyside derby, with a pretty shite performance. It will be an absolute disgrace if Kuyt plays and scores in this match, after one of the worst attempted challenges I’ve ever seen.
At Anfield since the inception of the Premiership, in all competitions, we’ve won five times, drawn three times and lost eleven. Always been a bit of a hellhole for us, this one. Before December 2001, we’d won one, drawn two and lost eight. Head to head between Benitez and Wenger currently stands at 5-3 to Arsene home and away.
Full strength for this one. Only selection issues are whether Flamini keeps his place in midfield, and whether Theo or Eduardo start up front with Adebayor. After his two goals on Tuesday Theo has to be in with a good shout, and I can’t really call who will start. Starting him at home against Slavia Prague when we’re under no pressure is slightly different to starting him at Anfield in the league with United breathing down our necks. Whether you start Theo, Eduardo or Bendtner, you’re still looking at a collective total of 0 Premiership goals. Theo being the quickest of the three could be used against the old and slow Hyppia to good effect, hopefully he'll revel in the media limelight, he must be full of confidence right now.
Subs: Fabianski, Gilberto, Diaby, Eboue, Eduardo/Bendtner
They welcome back Fabio Aurelio, Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres for this game, and possibly Harry Kewell. After his hatrick last season against the same centre back pairing that will start on Sunday, you’d expect Crouch to start upfront with Torres.
Subs: Itandje, Agger, Alonso, Benayoun, Kuyt