Date:Saturday March 22 2008
We all know what the build-up is like to these games? Grand Slam Sunday, the whole thing hyped up mercilessly - though some pundits now started warning us about the possibilities - and then inevitably tight games with few chances that might even be described as dull.
Not much more can be expected this time yet the players themselves are talking big time. Shooting their mouths off in the press rarely makes a difference of course but it's worth having a look at, especially as Liverpool appear to be full of confidence after winning seven games on the bounce.
'Fernando and Stevie are playing really well, scoring goals and have a good partnership. I think the Manchester United defenders will be really worried,' Alvaro Arbeloa told Liverpool's official website.
'You worry a little bit when you're going to be up against Ronaldo, Tevez and Rooney because they are fantastic players - but that's my job. We have big defenders here like Carra, Sami and Fabio Aurelio. They are great defenders, so I can sleep well.'
John Arne Riise expressed similar thoughts. So, in short, we should be very worried while Liverpool defenders will be only a little worried and losing no sleep?
Now that's what I call shooting their mouths off. It happens on our part, too - and you can't help but being a bit exasperated reading all this. Arbeloa is right, it's his job to stop us but I would it's Rio and co.'s job to stop Torres and Gerrard and they will lose no sleep seeing they have done that once this season.
So, should we worry about Liverpool? As usual, the completely impartial BBC's every pundit is analysing what Liverpool have to do to beat us, it's difficult not to smile at their efforts of declaring their support to the dippers without actually saying 'Go Liverpool!'. It's a common belief that Torres and Gerrard are the key as they are on fire and nobody doubts their chances of getting the goods at Old Trafford while Ronaldo, league's most consistent player by a country mile, is slagged off for supposedly not delivering in big games, whatever that means for the pundits.
The truth is that it's more than likely the aforementioned big names (Torres, Gerrard, Ronaldo) will have little impact on the game that is likely to be dominated by defensive excellence. The only Liverpool player I am really worried about - though the others might prove me wrong - is Javier Mascherano who has a disconcerting habit of playing a blinder pretty much every time he features for his team. We must find a way of getting round him - be it either a piece of individual brilliance or intelligent movement that stretches their midfield or simply relying on set-pieces to nullify his qualities, I don't care - to get a result from this match.
Though I said these games can be called dull, I do not believe they actually are as I like the fascinating tactical battles that take place. The problem for a neutral is that as they do not feel the gripping tension, the lack of end-to-end football and gilt-edged chances will disappoint them. I, however, won't be disappointed regardless the quality this game will offer if we find ourselves five points clear at the top on Sunday evening! Though I admit that is dream's stuff and as such it's unlikely to actually happen. But I can keep hoping.
Date:Saturday March 22 2008
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|Man Utd||3||-||0||Aston Villa|
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|1. Man Utd||38||28||5||5||+43||89|
|2. Man City||38||23||9||6||+32||78|
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