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Liverpool vs. Manchester United: A game United cannot afford to lose?

Manchester United’s defeat at Chelsea during the week threw the title race wide open yet again, thus making tonight’s game at Anfield a must-win, at least in terms of defining the course of league.

This could well be the most important weekend of the season as far as the Premier League is concerned. Arsenal have probably blown their best opportunity thus far, to plug the gap on United to as close as a single point as they drew a blank to Sunderland at home (Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland). Now they have to wait for United to travel to the Emirates in early May for a game that may decide where the title goes, London or Manchester.

But all the attention turns to Anfield tonight, where Liverpool looks for vengeance after narrowly losing 3-2 in the reverse encounter earlier this season. Dimitar Berbatov tore Liverpool to shreds on that particular day, scoring a superb hat-trick to stave off a stirring Reds fight-back and clinch all three points for United. The Bulgarian may not be guaranteed a starting spot at Anfield but he has enjoyed a brilliant season. Having headed home the opener, Berbatov made it 2-0 with a marvelous overhead kick, only for Steven Gerrard to pull Liverpool level with expertly-taken set pieces: a penalty and a free-kick, respectively. Berbatov though did have the final say, as he rose well to beat Jamie Carragher in the air and seal a memorable win.

A hat trick in the reverse fixture and being the league’s top scorer will not guarantee Dimitar Berbatov a place in the starting line-up

Manchester United against Liverpool is the biggest game in England, the one everyone looks forward to. Even if United had not lost at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night it would have been big. Liverpool will never have a better chance of beating United, who are without their suspended skipper Nemanja Vidic and the injured Rio Ferdinand. Now one of those they can cope without, but both?

Say if Andy Carroll was deemed fit enough to start and United were to start with the young and hugely impressive Chris Smalling with either Johnny Evans or Wes Brown alongside him, Carroll would beat them in the air, 9 times out of ten. Luis Suarez will be another key figure. He is quick, hard to handle, gets goals and loves to turn defenders in dangerous areas. They say games are won in midfield, but certainly this one rides on the defensive frailties of Manchester United, and some would say maybe Liverpool.

Liverpool’s season hardly hinges on beating United, but they have the added incentive of knowing victory might just put an obstacle in the way of United’s attempt to claim a record 19th title and overhaul their very own record.   United though, face one of their sternest tests of the season; in front of The Kop and against a Liverpool side showing encouraging signs under Kenny Dalglish. However it is the away form of a team  that dictates title campaigns and this is an away game for them. United’s has been unimpressive as they have dropped 22 points, hence the fact that the championship race is still wide open.

Certainly, United must not lose. Arsenal have the easier run-in and of course the two teams meet at The Emirates on Sunday, 1 May. That said, what no-one can doubt about this United team is their resilience and their never-say-die-attitude. It’s what sets them apart. There is no better way to bounce back from a poor result than to beat your fiercest rivals in their very own backyard. A win would take them 6 points clear of their nearest rivals Arsenal, albeit they would have played an extra game.

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