Manchester United v Liverpool preview

Its 12:18 am here in southern California. Just about 4 hours before the undisputed match of the weekend kicks off. In the media frenzy surrounding Harry Redknapp’s acquittal, and subsequent baptism as the (next) savor of the England national team, some of the attention has been drawn away from what would have otherwise been the story on every newspaper’s back page. Manchester United play host to Liverpool just 15 days after being knocked out of the FA Cup by their eternal rivals Liverpool in a game that they had no business losing. On that day two weeks ago Patrice Evra received boos, hisses, jeers, and ironic cheers whenever the ball even looked like being played by him. Today, Luis Suarez is widely expected to make his return to the starting lineup for the first time since his ban was served. In recent days members from both clubs have tried to play down the hype surrounding the whole affair but it really is pointless. As fans, we have long memories and no mercy for those we deem worthy of our scorn. The Uruguayan international is public enemy no. 1 at Old Trafford and he will be made aware of that from before the first whistle to after he gets stretchered off with a cruciate injury (fingers crossed).

The team news for United is certainly heartening with Cleverley due to take “some part” in the match, most likely off the bench, and Chris Smalling listed as likely. Sir Alex has a tendency to surprise us with his team selection but for me I’d imagine that De Gea starts, along with Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra, Carrick, Scholes, Valencia, Giggs/Young/Park, Rooney and Welbeck. Rooney was instrumental in our comeback last weekend against that team from London and the outcome of this game largely depends on him finding the space he needs to pull the strings. I’m loving the link-up play of Welbeck in the build-up play and I prefer he starts with Chich to come off the bench as an impact sub if need be. Welbeck’s intuitive understanding with Valencia, Rafael, Rooney, and Cleverley in particular gives me all the hope in the world that if United can be clinical in their finishing, this game will be won in the 30th minute. I expect Kenny to attempt to pack the midfield with 5 men and use big Andy Carroll to trouble De Gea but with Scholes conducting this dance at his own pace and the drive of Rooney, I’m really not concerned with whatever Liverpool may have prepared.

I could wax on and on about the lineups and tactics but at this point I just want to sleep. Analysis to come here after the match. Commentary via twitter (@earthsportsnews)
Ta ta for now.

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Farewell Fabio

Capello has called it quits. What does this mean for England in the immediate future? Assuming Redknapp takes the job as it seems he will, you can bet that there will be a clear-out of certain players. Whether Harry sticks with the 4-2-3-1 that Fabio prefered or shifts into the more attacking 4-4-1-1 that Spurs have put to such excellent use thusfar this season remains to be seen. I’m inclined to think that we’ll see a shift in tactics.

Harry’s ideal team is a tough one to predict. Does he stick with his English players from Spurs that he knows so well, or branch out? I imagine he’ll be content to leave Defoe out of his starting lineup, but will he stand with Aaron Lennon, Scott Parker, Michael Dawson, Ledley King, and Kyle Walker? All these players have figured prominently in Harry’s Spurs team this season when fit. We can drop King from the argument. His well documented  knees won’t let him play a major tournament. That still leaves us with 4 potential starters for England’s push for European glory. The potential permutations and combinations of a starting lineup are seemingly endless but this is how I see Mr Redknapp picking his squad:

The full 30 man squad as I see it is Hart, Foster, Stockdale, (GK) Richards, G. Johnson, Dawson, Walker, Cahill, Shawcross, Jones, Smalling, Lescott, A. Cole, Baines, (DEF) Cleverley, Carrick, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lampard, Milner, Parker, Barry, Gerrard, Young, A. Johnson, Walcott, (MID) Rooney, Sturridge, Welbeck, Defoe, and Bent as the strikers.
Who stays and who gets cut will likely be determined mostly by form and fitness at the time of the tournament, but I see the first XI from this 30 as:

Joe Hart in goal, Richards on the right, Lescott and Cahill in the center, with Ashley Cole on the left. In central midfield, Its Parker and Barry, flanked by Young and Lennon, with Gerrard in behind Welbeck until Rooney’s two match ban is served. Michael Carrick is making a strong push to start alongside Scott Parker who has to be the first name on the teamsheet.