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A Complete Guide To The Final 16 Teams Of The Champions League

UCL-Draw

Manchester United and Arsenal, the only two remaining English sides, will be looking to avoid the big guns in the draw for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, which takes place in Nyon (Switzerland) on Thursday 10:30am GMT.

Manchester United qualified as Group H winners and so are seeded in the draw but they still could be drawn against the big sides, while Arsenal finished as runners-up and like United could face the top guns especially Barcelona (third time in the past four seasons) in the knockout stages. On the other hand, Chelsea became the first holders to be eliminated in the group stages, while Manchester City were completely knocked out of Europe as they ended bottom of their group.

Group Winners: Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke, Malaga, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Group Runners-Up: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray

Below we have a look at each of the above 16 teams in detail..

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Country: France
Coach:
Carlo Ancelotti
Key Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Other Star Players: Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi & Javier Pastore
Rising Star: Marco Verratti
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 1995
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: PSG are one of the richest clubs in the world and have ambitions to win the Champions League this term. If striker Ibrahimovic can continue his superb form from the group stages, it might just happen.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

SCHALKE 04

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jens Keller
Key Player: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Other Star Players: Benedikt Howedes, Lewis Holtby & Kyriakos Papadopoulos
Rising Star: Julian Draxler
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Galatasary, Valencia, Celtic, Real Madrid
Chances: The Germans were unbeaten through their group which consisted the likes of Arsenal, Olympiakos and Montpellier, which shows they are not a team to be taken for granted. One their day they could upset the big guns.
Prediction: Round of 16

MALAGA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Manuel Pellengrini
Key Player: Isco
Other Star Players: Joaquin, Martin Demichelis & Eliseu
Rising Star: Francisco Portillo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Debutants
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: Have been very impressive so far in their debut season in the Champions League, but their inexperience in the competition may prove costly in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jurgen Klopp
Key Player: Marco Reus
Other Star Players: Roberto Lewandowski, Mats Hummels & Mario Gotze
Rising Star: Moritz Leitner
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1997
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Bundesliga champions have very much caught the eye in the group stages after finishing at top of the Group of Death and are the team to beat. Considered as the dark horses for the title.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

JUVENTUS

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Antonio Conte
Key Player: Arturo Vidal
Other Star Players: Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon & Giorgio Chiellini
Rising Star: Paul Pogba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1985, 1996
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Serie A champions remained unbeaten in the group stages and topped their group by winning on the final matchday. The Italians are expected to step it up when the competition resumes in February.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

BAYERN MUNICH

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jupp Heynckes
Key Player: Franck Ribery
Other Star Players: Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger & Philipp Lahm
Rising Star: David Alaba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1974, 1975, 1976, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The current Bundesliga leaders ended as the beaten finalists last season and will be looking to make amends for it. They have been in fine form so far and are one of the favourites to lift the trophy in May.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

BARCELONA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Tito Vilanova
Key Player: Lionel Messi
Other Star Players: Andres Iniesta, Xavi & Sergio Busquets
Rising Star: Christian Tello
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1992, 2006, 2009, 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Arsenal, Galatasaray, AC Milan
Chances: The Catalans were the pre-tournament favourites to win the competition and there has been very little so far to suggest that they won’t win it this term. Vilanova has done brilliantly since taking over from Pep Guardiola in the summer.
Prediction: Winners

MANCHESTER UNITED

Country: England
Coach:
 Sir Alex Ferguson
Key Player: Wayne Rooney
Other Star Players: Robin van Persie, Nemanja Vidic & Antonio Valencia
Rising Star: Rafael
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1968, 1999, 2008
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic
Chances: Unlike last season, United have marched pretty easily into the knockout stages and with Van Persie & Rooney both in form they are a team to fear. Surely one of the contenders for the title.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

PORTO

Country: Portugal
Coach:
 Vitor Pereira
Key Player: Jackson Martinez
Other Star Players: Joao Moutinho, Lucho Gonzalez & Nicolas Otamendi
Rising Star: James Rodriguez
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winner 1987, 2004
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: The Portuguese champions have gone all the way before but its very unlikely it will happen again this season. They have a very good squad with some very talented players but its highly unlikely they will trouble the big teams.
Prediction: Round of 16

ARSENAL

Country: England
Coach:
 Arsene Wenger
Key Player: Santi Cazrola
Other Star Players: Jack Wilshere, Thomas Vermaelen & Lukas Podolski
Rising Star: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2006
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: The Gunners have had a stuttering season both domestically and in Europe – especially at home. They will need to improve a lot in the second half of the season if they want to be genuine title contenders.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

AC MILAN

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Massimiliano Allegri
Key Player: Stephan El Shaarawy
Other Star Players: Philippe Mexes, Ricardo Montolivo & Kevin-Prince Boateng
Rising Star: Mattia De Sciglio
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Arsenal, the Rossoneri are struggling this term domestically and in Europe. They are not the force of the old, although their pedigree and experience in this competition means they should not be taken lightly.
Prediction: Round of 16

REAL MADRID

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Jose Mourinho
Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Other Star Players: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos & Mesut Ozil
Rising Star: Raphael Varane
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Its been over a decade since Real Madrid last won the Champions League and the boss Mourinho has never appeared more determined to win the tournament for the club this season. With the team they have they are regarded as the joint favourites alongside Barca.
Prediction: Runners-Up

SHAKHTAR DONETSK

Country: Ukraine
Coach:
 Mircea Lucescu
Key Player: Luiz Adriano
Other Star Players: Darijo Srna, Willian & Fernandinho
Rising Star: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Quarter-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Dortmund, Shakhtar are another side that have grabbed the attention of many in the group stages. They are the ones who dumped Chelsea out of the tournament and a side very few people would want to face in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

VALENCIA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Ernesto Valverde
Key Player: Roberto Soldado
Other Star Players: Jonas, Sofiane Feghouli & Adil Rami
Rising Star: Daniel Parejo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2000, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Juventus, Manchester United
Chances: The Spaniards have been very impressive in the group stages with their star striker at the top of his game but do not appear equipped for a really extended run in competition this season.
Prediction: Round of 16

CELTIC

Country: Scotland
Coach:
 Neil Lennon
Key Player: Giorgos Samaras
Other Star Players: Fraser Forster, Victor Wanyama & Gary Hooper
Rising Star: Anthony Watt
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1967
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Had little hopes of making it through to the knockout stages after being grouped with Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow but they did it. Anything else from now will be a bonus for the Scottish champions.
Prediction: Round of 16

GALATASARAY

Country: Turkey
Coach:
 Fatih Terim
Key Player: Burak Yilmaz
Other Star Players: Felipe Melo, Nordin Amrabat & Hamit Altintop
Rising Star: Semih Kaya
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-finals 1989
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: Snatched the second spot from CFR Cluj on the final matchday. Like Celtic, anything else they achieve from now on will be a bonus for the Turkish side and very few teams will fancy making the trip to the intimidating Turk Telekom Arena in Istanbul.
Prediction: Round of 16

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Manchester City v Manchester United Preview

City-Utd

The first Manchester derby of the season is here as Manchester City and Manchester United resume their rivalry on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium which could provide vital momentum in the title race.

Roberto Mancini’s City emerged victorious in both the Premier League encounters last season, winning 6-1 at Old Trafford and 1-0 at home before winning the title in the most dramatic style on the final day of the season.

The reigning champions have made a decent start to the defence of their crown and remain unbeaten after 15 games, but it is United who have a three-point advantage at the top of the table ahead of Sunday’s meeting. There have been indications that it is already a two-horse race for the Premier League title, with others rivals – Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham and Liverpool – struggling for consistency.

City’s participation in the Champions League and even Europe came to an end with a 1-0 loss to the Bundesliga champions – Borussia Dortmund in the midweek, while they were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton last weekend after a less than impressive performance. United, on the other, were also beaten 1-0 (at home) by CFR Cluj but had already won the group so Sir Alex Ferguson was able to rotate his squad. The 19-time league champions overcame Reading 4-3 last weekend and have been in superb form going forward all season, but it was yet another match in which they fell behind and this time not once but twice.

Ferguson will surely be demanding greater concentration against a team that has the best defensive record in the league and haven’t lost a single game at home since December 2010. The Scot says it would be one of United’s best-ever results if they can win on Sunday.

TEAM NEWS

Manchester City

City’s influential playmaker David Silva will be given every chance to prove his fitness ahead of the Manchester derby at home. The Spanish international missed the Champions League loss to Dortmund with a hamstring injury but remains in contention and is batting to take part on Sunday. Aleksandar Kolarov has been ruled out with a groin problem and Micah Richards (knee) is still sidelined. Gael Clichy (ankle) and Jack Rodwell (hamstring) both should be available for selection, while James Milner (hamstring) is likely to miss out.

Manchester United

Tom Cleverley is doubtful for Manchester United after limping out in the first half of the game against Cluj and will have a scan on his calf injury. Sir Alex Ferguson has also revealed that Shinji Kagawa and Nemanja Vidic (both) are struggling to be fit in time for the derby and may completely be ready for the Sunderland game. Antonio Valencia (thigh), Nani and Anderson (both hamstring) have been ruled out of the important clash, while the likes of Robin van Persie and Patrice Evra are set to return to the starting XI after being rested in midweek.

HEAD TO HEAD

Played – 164
Manchester City Wins – 46
Draw – 50
Manchester United Wins – 68

HEAD TO HEAD FIXTURES (LAST FIVE)

30-Apr-12 – Premier League – Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United
08-Jan-12 – FA Cup – Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
23-Oct-11 – Premier League – Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City
07-Aug-12 – Community Shield – Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
16-Apr-11 – FA Cup – Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United

FORM GUIDE

Manchester City – LDWDD
The Citizens have been unbeaten in the league so far this season and are just three points behind leaders Manchester United in the standings. But they have won just once and drawn thrice in their last five games in all competitions, with the only win coming at Wigan. A win on Sunday will take them above United in the league table on goal difference.

04-Dec-12 – Champions League – Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Manchester City
01-Dec-12 – Premier League – Manchester City 1-1 Everton
28-Nov-12 – Premier League – Wigan Athletic 0-2 Manchester City
25-Nov-12 – Premier League – Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City
21-Nov-12 – Champions League – Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid

Manchester United – LWWWL
The Red Devils come into this match on the back of three consecutive wins in the Premier League and are sitting three points clear of their opponents at the top of the table. But they haven’t hit top gear and their defensive frailties have already been exposed. A win on Sunday will be massive one and will take them six points clear of City at the top.

05-Dec-12 – Champions League – Manchester United 0-1 CFR Cluj
01-Dec-12 – Premier League – Reading 3-4 Manchester United
28-Nov-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 1-0 West Ham United
24-Nov-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 3-1 Queens Park Rangers
20-Nov-12 – Champions League – Galatasaray 1-0 Manchester United

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
The Belgium international scored the only goal in last season’s 1-0 win over United at the Etihad stadium – which won them the title – and was also as solid as rock at the back. The club captain is an inspirational presence for Roberto Mancini, and his match-up against Robin van Persie will see arguably two of the best players in their respective positions battling in a mouth-watering clash. How he copes with the Dutchman and what he can offer going forward will be the key to the outcome of the game, but one thing is for sure – if Kompany is on form, City are a very hard team to beat.

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
All eyes have been on Robin van Persie this season, and – even Javier Hernandez has gone past Wayne Rooney in the goal-scoring charts, but numbers alone do not tell the full influence of the 27-year-old on his side. With the Dutch forward being the target man of the strike force, Rooney will certainly drop deeper when United lose possession, and will try to create chances from further back in the final third. His work rate and distribution are very important in clashes like these, and with two strikes in his last league game at Reading, the England forward may be in line for a hot goal-scoring streak.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Joe Hart; Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany (C), Matija Nastasic, Gael Clichy; Yaya Toure, Gareth Barry; David Silva, Carlos Tevez, Samir Nasri; Sergio Aguero.

City XI

City manager Roberto Mancini is likely to recall Yaya Toure back to the squad after resting him for the Champions League game against Dortmund, while David Silva may well recover from his hamstring injury in time for the big game. Joe Hart continues in goal as Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic will play ahead of him in centre of the defence. Aleksandar Kolarov (groin) has been ruled out, which means Gael Clichy could be rushed back after recovering from his ankle injury, but should he not be ready Joleon Lescott could slot in or Pablo Zabaleta could switch sides win Maicon coming in on the right side. Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure are expected to shield the defence as Silva, Carlos Tevez and Samir Nasri could play in a more advance role. Sergio Aguero is likely to lead the line for the hosts, with both Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko coming off the bench at some point during the game.

Manchester United (4-3-3): David De Gea; Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra; Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes; Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Ashley Young.

United XI

Sir Alex Ferguson is expected to continue with David De Gea in goal after the keeper made his return to first team action against CFR Cluj in the Champions League. Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra are all expected to be back in defence after being rested during the midweek defeat at home. With Valencia and Nani both out, United are expected to play with the same formation (4-3-3) that won at Reading. Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes will make the three-man midfield with Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young further up the pitch, playing on either side of Robin van Persie. Shinji Kagawa is expected to make the bench, while the inform Javier Hernandez will be an option should the visitors need a goal at some stage of the game.

OPTA FACTS

  • 3 – Man Utd have won 1-0 against City three times in their last six Premier League games at the Etihad.
  • 5 – There have been just five goals scored in the last six league meetings between City and United at the Etihad Stadium and no more than one in any of those games.
  • 10 – Robin van Persie is joint-top scorer in the league, with 10 goals alongside Demba Ba, Michu and Luis Suarez – Man City’s top scorer is Carlos Tevez with seven.
  • 36 – City (15) and United (21) have come from behind to win a combined 36 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season.
  • 21 – Man City and Man Utd have been awarded more penalties than any other side in the Premier League since the start of 2010-11.

REFEREE

Name – Martin Atkinson
Based – Yorkshire
Age – 41
Games – 18
Yellow Cards – 71
Red Cards – 1

MATCH ODDS

Manchester City 13/10, Draw 12/5, Manchester United 21/10

PREDICTION

As both teams have pulled away from the rest at the top of the table, it could turn out to be a very close affair decided by a moment of brilliance or a mistake. City will be looking to attack at home and take full advantage of United’s weaknesses at the back, while the Red Devils will hope to avoid conceding the first goal again but have also shown the determination and character to win games from losing positions. With the winner taking the top spot in the league table, both teams will look to get the 3 points. United have the firepower, but City have a very solid defence, making the hosts slight favourites. Expect United to get something out of this one, maybe a high scoring draw.

Predicted Score: Manchester City 2-2 Manchester United

Manchester United v Arsenal Preview

Manchester United’s blockbuster summer signing Robin van Persie takes centre stage on Saturday as the former Arsenal skipper comes up against his old employers for the first time in an United shirt.

The Dutch international, who scored 132 times during his seven years with the Gunners before departing in a £24million deal this summer, has already made an impact at Old Trafford. Van Persie already has seven goals to his name from just seven Premier League starts to show why Sir Alex Ferguson was so happy to land his signature despite competition from Manchester City and Juventus. The striker’s priceless ability to win games on his own will be sorely missed by the fans who once idolised him, and even though Arsene Wenger has called for respect from the travelling fans, the hostility is likely to come out from the away section.

Arsenal also need to banish the memories of last season’s Premier League visit to Old Trafford in August, when they suffered an 8-2 humiliation in what ranks as one of Wenger’s darkest days in his otherwise successful career.

The London club are six points behind United and while it will be to immature to write them off their title ambitions in November, a nine-point gap would be a significant deficit to bridge. On the other hand, victory for Ferguson’s men would take them at the top of the table for the first time this season as Chelsea are not in action until later in day when they travel to Swansea.

TEAM NEWS

Manchester United

The Red Devils have no fresh injury issues following their two dramatic matches against Chelsea over the past week. Defender Chris Smalling continues to make good progress in training, but the game at Old Trafford will come too soon. Fellow centre-back Phil Jones (knee) is also not ready, while Nemanja Vidic and midfielder Shinji Kagawa (both knee) remain sidelined. Sir Alex Ferguson made a host of changes for the Capital One Cup clash and will bring back his big players for the big Premier League encounter.

Arsenal

The Gunners will go back to a more recognized team after changing their entire starting XI for the surprising Capitol One Cup success at Reading. Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna are in contention, but Theo Walcott may be back on the bench after playing whole 120 minutes at the Madjeski. Midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hip) faces a fitness test, but winger Gervinho (ankle) will be out for around three weeks, while defender Kieran Gibbs (thigh), first-choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny (ankle), midfielder Abou Diaby (thigh) and Czech winger Tomas Rosicky (hamstring) all continue their rehab.

HEAD TO HEAD

Played – 193
Manchester United Wins – 84
Draw – 42
Arsenal Wins – 67

HEAD TO HEAD FIXTURES (LAST FIVE)

22-Jan-12 – Premier League – Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United
28-Aug-11 – Premier League – Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal
01-May-11 – Premier League – Arsenal 1-0 Manchester United
12-Mar-11 – FA Cup – Manchester United 2-0 Arsenal
13-Apr-10 – Premier League – Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal

FORM GUIDE

Manchester United – LWWWW
United come into this match on the back of a very important win at Stamford Bridge in the league and are currently just one point behind leaders Chelsea in second place.

31-Oct-12 – Captial One Cup – Chelsea 5-4 Manchester United
28-Oct-12 – Premier League – Chelsea 2-3 Manchester United
23-Oct-12 – Champions League – Manchester United 3-2 Braga
20-Oct-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 4-2 Stoke City
06-Oct-12 – Premier League – Newcastle United 0-3 Manchester United

Arsenal – WWLLW
The Gunners lie in sixth place in the Premier League, six points behind their opponents having won four, drawn three and lost two of their nine games.

30-Oct-12 – Capital One Cup – Reading 5-7 Arsenal
27-Oct-12 – Premier League – Arsenal 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
24-Oct-12 – Champions League – Arsenal 0-2 Schalke 04
20-Oct-12 – Premier League – Norwich City 1-0 Arsenal
06-Oct-12 – Premier League – West Ham United 1-3 Arsenal

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Robin van Persie (Manchester United)
All eyes will be on the former Arsenal man on Saturday. The 29-year-old has added an extra dimension to United’s attack this season, and is the club’s top goal scorer with nine goals in all competitions. The Netherlands international will be keen to show his former club what they lost. However, he will show some respect to the club he represented for seven years but most Arsenal fans won’t feel the same.

Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
The 23-year-old has been in headlines this week, for reasons on and off the pitch. Contract talks are stalling because the England international isn’t happy with his lack of playing time, but after scoring a hat-trick against Reading in midweek he is making it very hard for Arsene Wenger to leave him out. Walcott on song is a great attacking player and added to the likes Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Jack Wilshere, they could easily stun the Red Devils.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): David De Gea; Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra (C); Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley; Antonio Valencia, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young; Robin van Persie.

De Gea is most likely to take back his place in between the sticks from Anders Lindegaard after the Danish international let in five goals against Chelsea in the mid-week. Ferdinand and Evans will return to central defence after the youngsters – Scott Wootton and Michael Keane – failed to stand up to the challenge at Stamford Bridge. Alexander Buttner, who was substituted at half time, will also make way for Evra. Carrick and Cleverley are expected to return in the midfield along with Valencia and Young on the wings. Rooney and Van Persie were rested for midweek clash and the star strike duo will take field against an under-performing Arsenal defence.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Vito Mannone; Bacary Sagna, Per Mertesacker, Thomas Vermaelen (C), Andre Santos; Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta; Theo Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski; Olivier Giroud.

First choice keeper Wojciech Szcesny is close to recovery but the Pole is not fit to make a start against the Red Devils, leaving Mannone as the only option for Wenger. Kieran Gibbs is also out with injury, giving Brazilian full-back Andre Santos more first team action this season. After his hat-trick in the mid-week against Reading, Theo Walcott may get the nod on the right wing in place of Aaron Ramsey, while both Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh are expected to be back on the bench after their impressive performances in the Capital One Cup. Giroud did score against Reading but his league record has been very poor but Wenger will most likely rely on the Frenchman yet again.

OPTA FACTS

  • 1 – Wayne Rooney scored his first Premier League goal, his first in the Premier League for Manchester United and his 100th Premier League goal against Arsenal.
  • 1 – Only one of Arsenal’s 14 league goals this season have come before the half-hour mark.
  • 5 – Manchester United have scored and conceded at least two goals in the same Premier League game five times this season.
  • 7 – Manchester United have won seven and lost none of their last eight against Arsenal at Old Trafford in all competitions.
  • 9 – Manchester United have won nine of their last 10 meetings with the Gunners in all competitions.
  • 10 – Arsenal have scored just 10 goals in 20 Premier League visits to Old Trafford, with last season (8-2 defeat) being the only time they have netted two in one game.
  • 21 – Robin van Persie has hit the woodwork 21 times since August 2009, nine more times than any other Premier League player in the same period.

REFEREE

Name – Mike Dean
Based – Wirral
Age – 44
Games – 6
Yellow Cards – 15
Red Cards – 0

MATCH ODDS

Manchester United 8/11, Draw 13/5, Arsenal 4/1

PREDICTION

It’s been an incredibly entertaining goal-filled week in which both sides conceded five goals in the Capital One Cup. This fixture last season delivered an equally ridiculous scoreline when Manchester United ran out 8-2 winners. Arsenal’s failure to score in league games this season and having to see Robin van Persie play against them will surely make matters worse for the North London side. The game is expected to be another entertaining one for the neutrals, but Sir Alex’s side should have too much for the Gunners in this one.

Predicted Score: Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal

Premier League Team Of The Week – Gameweek 9

See who have made our Team of the Week from an exciting eighth weekend in the Premier League. Arsenal and Manchester United have provided two players each, while there is one each from Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Norwich, Tottenham and Wigan.

David De Gea (Manchester United)

It was the same fixture last term that helped De Gea cement his place as United’s number one. The Spanish keeper was again at his best making a number of fine saves to keep the Blues at bay towards the end of first half, including a couple with his feet.

Bacary Sagna (Arsenal)

The Frenchman made an excellent return from injury to give Arsene Wenger a selection headache between him and the impressive Carl Jenkinson ahead of the important clash against Manchester United this weekend. Sagna fired in a string of crosses as he got forward for the Gunners while was also sound defensively as Arsenal picked up a clean sheet.

Ivan Ramis (Wigan Athletic)

The Latics defender was very impressive against West Ham at home. He scored the game’s opener in the eighth minute with a sizzling left-footed, while at the same time kept things tight at the back. He along with his defensive partner successfully dealt with the treat possessed by Andy Carroll.

Michael Turner (Norwich City)

The former Sunderland and Hull City centre-back was solid at the back for the Canaries as Aston Villa were restricted to just one chance in the 1-1 draw at Villa Park. Adding some gloss to his display, he scored a late equaliser, heading home Wes Hoolahan’s corner.

Leighton Baines (Everton)

The Everton left-back was very unlucky to be on the score-sheet for Liverpool in the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park. However, he didn’t allow this disappointment to affect his overall game and he went on to enjoy a good solid afternoon. He was a constant threat on the left hand side and also created some good chances for his team-mates.

Juan Mata (Chelsea)

Mata is no stranger to our Premier League Team of the Week and contributed another excellent display against Manchester United, playing a key role as the Blues came back from two goals down. The little Spaniard scored a brilliant curling freekick at stroke of half time to inspire Chelsea’s revival but couldn’t stop them losing after going down to nine-men.

Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)

Returning after a 17-month injury lay-off Wilshere was in superb form for the Gunners as he took up his usual place in the heart of midfield. It looked like the youngster had never missed any football as he made several attacking runs and linked up well with Santi Cazorla.

Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)

The Welshman was at his very best and was a constant threat to the Southampton defence throughout the game. He saw his efforts rewarded with a well-taken opener, nodding home Tom Huddlestone’s through-ball with apparent ease for his fourth headed goal of the season.

Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

Suarez caused problems for Everton’s defence throughout the Merseyside derby as he enjoyed a great afternoon, seeing his shot deflect into the net by Baines for the Reds’ first then adding another six minutes later. The Uruguayan forward should have had a third in the dying minutes but it was wrongly ruled out for offside.

Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham)

The Bulgarian looks like he is enjoying his football. There are very few players who leave Manchester United and rediscover their old form and Berbatov is one of them. He was outstanding for the Cottagers against Reading and capped-off a fine performance with a well deserved goal.

Robin van Persie (Manchester United)

The Dutcman looks like he has picked up form for United from where he left at Arsenal as he was once again impressive for the Red Devils against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Van Persie saw saw a fourth-minute shot deflected in off David Luiz before lashing home Antonio Valencia’s cross for the home side’s second eight minutes later.

Chelsea v Manchester United Preview

First meets second in the Premier League on Super Sunday as Chelsea host Manchester United in arguably the biggest game of the season so far and one that could have long term consequences on the title race. 

Chelsea currently have a four-point lead in the table and so will remain at the top no matter what happens in London on Sunday. But Sir Alex Ferguson will want his side to deliver some psychological damage on Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea, who lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in their midweek defence of the Champions League.

United, who came from two goals down to pick up a 3-2 win over Braga in Europe thanks to the heroics of Javier Hernandez, also visit Stamford Bridge with some reason to be confident. Last season’s Premier League runners-up have won four and drawn one of the last five matches against Chelsea in all competitions. But the Red Devils have also won just one of the last 12 trips to Stamford Bridge in all competitions, while Chelsea have won 10 and lost just one of their last 13 Premier League home games.

TEAM NEWS

Chelsea

The Blues will be without the services of their experience duo – John Terry and Frank Lampard. The Chelsea skipper continues to serve his four-match ban for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand, who is the brother of Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand. While, Lampard sustained a calf injury against Shakhtar Donetsk in the midweek and has been ruled for ‘ a few weeks’. Marko Marin has been training for the past couple of weeks and is expected to be in the squad for Sunday. There are no other absentees meaning Di Matteo is expected to name the same XI that won 4-2 at Tottenham last weekend.

Manchester United

Manchester United will be without their Japanese playermaker Shinji Kagawa for three to four weeks due to the knee injury he picked up in his side’s comeback win over Braga. Chris Smalling and Ashley Young are back training for a week and therefore could make the bench at Stamford Bridge, while United hope Phil Jones will start full training in November. Sir Alex Ferguson has no other fitness concerns, except for the long-term absentee Nemanja Vidic (knee), in his squad and will have to decide what to do with his striker problems after Javier Hernandez’s man-of-the-match performance in the midweek.

HEAD TO HEAD

Played – 163
Chelsea Wins – 44
Draw – 48
Manchester United Wins – 71

HEAD TO HEAD FIXTURES (LAST FIVE)

05-Feb-12 – Premier League – Chelsea 3-3 Manchester United
18-Sep-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 3-1 Chelsea
08-May-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea
12-Apr-12 – Champions League – Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea
06-Apr-12 – Champions League – Chelsea 0-1 Manchester United

FORM GUIDE

Chelsea – LWWWW
The Blues are in superb form this season and are early the favourites to win the title, as they are four points clear at the top of the table winning seven of their eight Premier League matches this season.

23-Oct-12 – Champions League – Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 Chelsea
20-Oct-12 – Premier League – Tottenham Hotspur 2-4 Chelsea
06-Oct-12 – Premier League – Chelsea 4-1 Norwich City
02-Oct-12 – Champions League – FC Norsdjaelland 0-4 Chelsea
29-Sep-12 – Premier League – Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea

Manchester United – WWWWL
United come into this match on the back of four back-to-back wins in all competitions and are sitting second behind their hosts for Sunday in the Premier League table.

23-Oct-12 – Champions League – Manchester United 3-2 Braga
20-Oct-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 4-2 Stoke City
06-Oct-12 – Premier League – Newcastle United 0-3 Manchester United
02-Oct-12 – Champions League – CFR Cluj 1-2 Manchester United
29-Sep-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Juan Mata (Chelsea)
The little Spaniard has been in great form this season and is surely one of the early contenders for the Player of the Year award. It was thought that the big money captures of Oscar and Eden Hazard might stop him from playing in his number 10 role for the club, but it has not. Instead he has got even better and has already scored three and created five goals in eight league matches so far. The United defence will have to be at their very best and disallow him the space he loves to get into, if they are to get a result on Sunday.

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
The England international is at his very best since his return from the thigh injury he picked up against Fulham at the start of the season. Many people suggested that the arrival of Robin van Persie will see Rooney being frozen out at United, but it has not been so. The duo have flourished as a strike partnership and the Englishman, who has scored three times in his last two visits to Stamford Bridge, has scored twice and assisted four times in the last three league games. There is no doubt the versatile striker will be United’s main man on Sunday and if the Blues can keep him quiet for the whole game then they have a great chance of getting all three points from the game.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Petr Cech (C); Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Ashley Cole; Ramires, John Obi Mikel; Oscar, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata; Fernando Torres.

John Terry misses the match because of his four-match suspension meaning Gary Cahill, who was benched for the midweek Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk comes back in the side to partner David Luiz in the heart of the defence. Frank Lampard, who picked up a knock in midweek, is expected to make way for Eden Hazard. Ramires will partner Mikel in the midfield, while Hazard will regain his spot in the side alongside Oscar and Juan Mata. Underperforming Fernando Torres is likely to start as the lone striker up front ahead of Daniel Sturridge.

Manchester United (4-1-2-1-2): David De Gea; Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra; Michael Carrick; Antonio Valencia, Paul Scholes; Wayne Rooney; Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez.

With Anders Lindegaard still recovering from the thump injury he picked up in training, David De Gea will start in between the sticks for the Red Devils. Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra are expected to return to the side after being rested in the midweek. Michael Carrick, who looked very unconventional in defence against Braga, will be moved up the field to play in his natural position on Sunday alongside Antonio Valencia and Paul Scholes in midfield and Wayne Rooney at the top of the diamond. Javier Hernandez, who scored the late equaliser in 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge last season, could be picked ahead of Danny Welbeck to partner Robin van Persie in attack.

OPTA FACTS

  • 0 – Chelsea have a superb home record against United, as they have never lost to the Red Devils in their last 10 meetings at Stamford Bridge.
  • 1 – Chelsea have gone into the break behind only once in the eight league matches this season.
  • 2 – David Luiz has scored in both of his appearances for Chelsea against United at Stamford Bridge.
  • 4 – Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have only been in front at half-time four times in 12 matches this season, and have gone on to win all four.
  • 4 – Javier Hernandez has scored in four of the seven clashes with Chelsea.
  • 5 – Wayne Rooney has scored five goals in his last six appearances in all competitions against Chelsea.
  • 5 – Robin van Persie has scored five times at Stamford Bridge; the best record of any visiting player.
  • 6 – Fernando Torres has scored six goals in 14 appearances for Chelsea this season, and is just one shy of total from last season.
  • 18 – In their last 30 meeting in all competitions, both the sides have got on the scoresheet on 18 occasions.

REFEREE

Name – Mark Clattenburg
Based – Durham
Age – 37
Games – 6
Yellow Cards – 24
Red Cards – 2

MATCH ODDS

Chelsea 7/5, Draw 9/4, Manchester United 21/10

PREDICTION

Chelsea are four points clear at the top of the table and a win on Sunday will see them going seven points ahead of United. The Red Devils, on the other hand, will put their best foot forward to pull Chelsea back. Goals are written all over this game, in the corresponding fixture last season Chelsea squandered a three-goal lead and were pegged back to 3-3. But both the sides have changed considerably since their last league meeting. Robin van Persie, who is the league’s top goal scorer with six goals, is expected to lead United’s onslaught alongside Wayne Rooney. However, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are in top form and given the weaknesses in both the defences, we are in store for a treat.

Predicted Score: Chelsea 2-2 Manchester United

How Can Manchester United Solve Their Striker Dilemma?

Manchester United would not have won their latest Champions League Group H encounter against Portuguese side Braga at Old Trafford if it was not for the excellence of Javier Hernandez.

Hernandez was the lifesaver – bagging a brace in United’s comeback victory – and showed why he must still be considered a key attacking option for Manchester United this year.

His tireless performance not only caught the attention of the Old Trafford faithful but also of manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who stated after the match that the 24-year-old Mexican international striker has given him some selection dilemma ahead of Sunday’s crunch match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

As per Manchester United’s official site, Sir Alex Fergsuon said:

“Chicharito has given me a good problem. He’s got me thinking, I must say that. He and van Persie and Rooney and Welbeck… I don’t know what to do with them to be honest with you.

“The boy is improving all the time. He has a great enthusiasm for the game, he trains magnificently, he practices all the time and his goal ratio is fantastic.

“It was a great ball from Tom Cleverley for the second goal but Chicharito’s movement in behind the defender for the second goal was terrific.”

Given the praise he receives from his manager and his fellow team-mates, the work-rate he puts on the pitch and the attitude he shows on and off the field, everyone would expect Hernandez was starting week-in-week-out for the Red Devils and would be their top choice striker after his dream debut season in the Premier League, but in reality, Chicharito is below Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck in the pecking order at Old Trafford as far as the strikers go and has just made four starts this season (only one in the Premier League).

But after Tuesday night’s man-of-the-match performance, he has surely thrown his hat into the ring for some more regular playing time this term. In his own words he has given the gaffer a ‘problem’ or a ‘selection dilemma’ about whom to play and whom to leave out on the bench.

So, how can United fix their striker dilemma? How can they keep all the four strikers happy at the same time? Which formation should they use?

Without any doubts, Manchester United have one of the best – if not the best – strikeforce in the world. Some squads will have one or maybe even two world-class strikers, but the Red Devils currently have four star strikers in their squad – all of whom are capable of winning the game single-handedly in both domestic and European competitions.

Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie need no introduction. They are both proven strikers, the top two goal-scorers in the Premier League last season and have scored a total of 362 goals (combined) between them. The duo are also forming one of the most fearsome and dangerous striker partnerships in the league.

Danny Welbeck, the local lad who has come off age in the last couple of seasons, a big-game player and an England regular to whom both the Red Devils and the Three Lions have turn for some inspiration and immediate impact in the past year or so. And then there’s Javier Hernandez, a regular goal-scorer for Mexico, who after Tuesday night’s excellent performance has once again shown everyone that he has the talent in him to become of the top strikers in the world.

They all are stars in their own right and it’s sad to see players who regularly start for their respective countries, on the bench for United. But the answer to handing four star strikers in one squad isn’t selling one of them for a good price in the next transfer window. There is no doubt that United could get a good price for Welbeck or Hernandez but selling them in order to create regular playing time for Rooney and Van Persie is not the answer.

Keeping in mind, the fact that there will be injuries, suspensions, international duties and a number of competitions to play in, a squad needs lot of depth and a number of attacking options, and for United to say that they don’t need a strong squad would be too ignorant. Sir Alex knows it very well that they need to have a lot of depth in their squad – like they had when they won the treble in 99 – and if he is able to keep the players happy, then why sell them?

This means that a rotation policy will be used, meaning that all four strikers will not get the minutes that they would love to every week. There will be times when United’s blockbuster summer signing – Van Persie is rested for Welbeck, and there will also be times when Rooney starts from the bench. This is nothing new in a squad that is blessed with so much of attacking talent. This is what has to happen this season in order to keep all four of them happy at the same time.

In terms of formation, the shift towards the new ‘diamond formation’ (4-1-2-1-2) is the best thing for United to keep their strikers happy as it helps to get most of their best attacking players on the pitch at the same time. The diamond formation is better than the commonly used 4-4-2 or the 4-2-3-1 as it allows for three attacking options rather than two or just the lone striker in the later two formations.

In the new formation, Van Persie and Rooney could both play at the top of the diamond, in behind the two strikers. That would allow Welbeck and Hernandez to get some more playing time than they would have got in a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1. Three strikers start in this formation with one playing behind the two in a very advance midfield role and also creating the link between the midfield and the attack. It means that Van Persie could play up front with Hernandez and Rooney behind them or Rooney with Welbeck and Van Persie behind them creating more chances.

Now talking about what happens to United’s second star signing of the summer – Shinji Kagawa. He was very successful at Dortmund last season playing in the hole behind the striker in this case Robert Lewandowski and he could do the same by playing at the top of diamond with Rooney and Van Persie up front. But that would decrease the involvement of Welbeck and Hernandez.

With Kagawa being very versatile and comfortable with the ball on either foot, the most logical solution is to play him on the left side of the diamond and allow him to drift in the middle with the full-back overlapping. Similar to what Andres Iniesta does for Spain or Barcelona whenever he is played out on the left. Kagawa on the left means that Antonia Valencia, Ashley Young and Nani are all left fighting for one starting position on the right side of the diamond. That means less playing time for all three, especially Nani, who looks like is behind Valencia and Young in the pecking order.

After saying all this, the diamond formation is best formation suited for United’s current squad. Its the most effective way for Sir Alex to get his best attacking players on the pitch at the same time without sacrificing the dominance and creativity in the midfield and on the wings.

Players won’t play each week and will be rotated regularly, but that’s part and parcel of playing football at the highest level and especially at a club like Manchester United. This will create a competition for places and it will be healthy for the players also, as they will have to be at their best at all times and continue to impress the manager both on the pitch during the games and in training.

Liverpool v Manchester United Preview

One of English football’s oldest and fiercest rivalry will be renewed this Sunday as Liverpool and Manchester United go head-to-head at Anfield.

The encounter promises to be an emotionally-charged affair, marking the Reds’ first home game since the recent report into the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy in which 96 Liverpool supporters lost their lives. United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has already confirmed the Red Devils will offer any assistance possible in ensuring the day goes smoothly, calling for mutual respect from both sets of fans.

The lastest fixture between the two sides at Old Trafford saw Liverpool’s Luis Suarez refuse to shake the hand of Manchester United defender Patrice Evra during the pre-match hand-shake following a much-publicised race storm, but reports ahead of Sunday’s game suggest there will be no such incident at Anfield, with the players not expected to cause further controversy on such an emotional occasion. The two teams are also expected to release 96 red ballons before the match as a tribute to those who passed away in the disaster.

TEAM NEWS

Liverpool

Manager Brendan Rodgers will bring back his big names for the visit of Manchester United. Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Joe Allen and Martin Kelly were rested for the 5-3 Europa League win at Young Boys but will return as they go looking for their first Barclays Premier League victory of the season. Forwards Fabio Borini and Raheem Sterling, substitutes in Switzerland, are likely to start while midfielder Jonjo Shelvey pressed his claims for inclusion with a two-goal second-half cameo.

Manchester United

Winger Ashley Young has been ruled out for two to three weeks with a “bruised cartilage”, Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed. The 27-year-old missed out on the England squad for the World Cup 2014 qualifying double-header against Moldova and Ukraine this month, and Ferguson now expects to be without the player until October. The United manager has also ruled out Wayne Rooney but could feature next weekend, while Darren Fletcher would play from the start in Wednesday night’s Capital One Cup tie at home to Newcastle United. The Scotland midfielder came on as a substitute in the 1-0 Champions League win over Galatasaray in midweek, his first competitive outing since last November.

HEAD TO HEAD

Played – 185
Liverpool Wins – 62
Draw – 51
Manchester United Wins – 72

HEAD TO HEAD FIXTURES (LAST FIVE)

11-Feb-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool
28-Jan-12 – FA Cup – Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United
15-Oct-12 – Premier League – Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United
06-Mar-11 – Premier League – Liverpool 3-1 Manchester United
09-Jan-11 – FA CUp – Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool

FORM GUIDE

Liverpool – WDLDD
The Reds are yet to register a win in the Premier League this season under new manager Brendan Rodgers and he will be desperate to break that duck against their fierce rivals.

20-Sep-12 – Europa League – Young Boys 3-5 Liverpool
15-Sep-12 – Premier League – Sunderland 1-1 Liverpool
02-Sep-12 – Premier League – Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal
30-Aug-12 – Europa League – Liverpool 1-1 Hearts
26-Aug-12 – Premier League – Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City

Manchester United – WWWWL
United come into this match on the back of four back-to-back wins in all competitions and are sitting second behind Chelsea in the Premier League table.

19-Sep-12 – Champions League – Manchester United 1-0 Galatasaray
15-Sep-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 4-0 Wigan Athletic
02-Sep-12 – Premier League – Southampton 2-3 Manchester United
25-Aug-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 3-2 Fulham
20-Aug-12 – Premier League – Everton 1-0 Manchester United

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
The Uruguayan will surely be the one to watch when these two sides meet tomorrow at Anfield. Suarez has dominated all the talk in the last two games between these sides at Anfiedl, but for different reasons. His mesmerizing performance helped Liverpool outclass United in March 2011 while the incidents involving him and Patrice Evra made the headlines after the last league game. With the ability to produce something out of the extraordinary, he will be hoping to do his best to help his team beat their fierce rivals while his battle with Evra will also not go unnoticed.

Robin van Persie (Manchester United)
The 28-year-old striker could not have asked for a much better start to life at Old Trafford. After scoring on his full debut against Fulham, with his very first shot, the ex-Feyenoord man then notched a hat-trick in the very next game against Southampton. Liverpool know all too well about van Persie’s predatory instincts after he scored both goals in the 2-1 win for his former side Arsenal at Anfield last season. Centre-back pairing of Agger and Skrtel will have improve on their showings so far this season if they are going successfully stop Dutchman from scoring.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Liverpool (4-3-3): Pepe Reina; Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Jose Enrique; Steven Gerrard (C), Joe Allen, Jonjo Shelvey; Fanio Borini, Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling.

The regular first teamers are expected to return after rested against Young Boys. Reina will start in goal, with Johnson, Skrtel and Agger to take back their regular positions. Jose Enrique might get the nod ahead of Martin Kelly in the starting XI. Gerrard and Allen will be back in place Henderson and Suso, while Shelvey is expected to keep his place in the side at the expense of Nuri Sahin, following his two goal second half cameo. Sterling will provide the Reds with natural pace and width on the left, while Suarez and Borini will complete the rest of the front three.

Manchester United (4-4-1-1): David De Gea; Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic (C), Patrice Evra; Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Nani; Shinji Kagawa; Robin van Persie.

Not many changes are expected to be made to the side that defeated Galatasaray at Old Trafford during the midweek. De Gea, Rafael, Vidic and Evra are all expected to keep their place in the defence, while Ferdinand will come in for Evans. The rest of the side is expected to be the same with Valencia and Nani on the wings and Carrick and Scholes in the centre of the midfield. Kagawa, who has excelled in the role behind striker, will start again behind Van Persie, who will lead the line on his own.

OPTA FACTS

  • 0 – Danny Welbeck has had 0 shots on targets in the Premier League this season, despite 10 attempts. 7 of them came in last week’s win over Wigan.
  • 2 – Nemanja Vidic has been sent off in his last 2 games at Anfield. 3 of his 4 red cards in the Premier League have been against Liverpool.
  • 2 – Liverpool have won just 2 of their 11 Premier League games at Anfield in 2012 (W2 D4 L5).
  • 4 – Robin van Persie scored both the goals in the 2-1 win against Liverpool for Arsenal at Anfield last season and has netted 4 times in his last 5 games against the Reds
  • 12 – Luis Suarez has created more goalscoring chances than anyone in the Premier League (12), but has yet to register an assist.
  • 75 – Liverpool have had 75 shots so far this season – the joint-most in the Premier League – but only 15 of them have been on target.

REFEREE

Name – Mark Halsey
Based – Lancashire
Age – 51
Games – 3
Yellow Cards – 6
Red Cards – 1

MATCH ODDS

Liverpool 7/4, Draw 9/4, Manchester United 13/8

PREDICTION

It has been an emotional week in the North West after the Hillsborough report’s release and the emotional atmosphere might play spoilsport. The two sets of players will have to rise above the occassion to make the game a football spectacle. These derbies are rarely open, free-flowing, end-to-end affairs, so expect a cage game until the first goal is scored. United are in form having won three of their four Premier League games, with summer signing Van Persie scoring four in his two starts. But Liverpool are a hard team to break down at home, especially against Manchester United and their ability to take their chances might decide the outcome of the game.

Predicted Score: Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United