If Liverpool win, Nicol says they will believe they can make the top four

Preview: Liverpool vs. Manchester United

  • Manchester United are aiming for four-straight wins vs. Liverpool
  • David Moyes never won at Anfield as Everton manager (0-5-7)
  • Daniel Sturridge has scored eight goals in his last seven league games

On Sunday at Anfield the fiercest rivalry in the Premier League will take center stage. Liverpool versus Manchester United (8:30am ET, watch live on NBCSN and via NBC Sports Live Extra) is here.

It will be a pulsating clash on Merseyside as the two arch rivals lock horns for the first time this season with both protecting unbeaten records after two PL games.

Manchester United manager David Moyes knows only too well about the passion and heritage surrounding Liverpool Football Club. For the last 11 years Moyes managed Liverpool’s city rivals Everton, just a stones throw away across Stanley Park. Now the 50-year-old Scotsman must take his new side into the fiery Anfield cauldron as the Red Devils cap off a massive week of action.

On Monday night Moyes’s men huffed and puffed but were shutout by Chelsea in the 0-0 draw at Old Trafford. Now Moyes has a chance to pick up his first real marquee win as United manager.

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Will United beat Liverpool for the fourth-straight time?

As for the hosts, Liverpool have yet to concede and after two-straight 1-0 wins to open the campaign, plenty of people are wondering if Rodgers’ side can sneak into the top four this season. The return of Luis Suárez is coming up but Daniel Sturridge has performed admirably in the Uruguayan’s absence, scoring both game-winners in the victories over Stoke City and Aston Villa.

But going into this game Liverpool have a huge headache defensively. Only Daniel Agger is fully-fit as Martin Skrtel is returning from injury and the so far impressive Kolo Toure was stretched off during the League Cup win over Notts County in midweek. Liverpool’s other center back, Sebastián Coates, is out for the season and Rodgers has a real issue as to who will lineup in defense. Skrtel is likely to get the nod but is nowhere near 100 percent fit.

United will look to take advantage of Liverpool’s defensive woes as an in-form Wayne Rooney is set to start in his hometown. Rooney, 27, dazzled against Chelsea on Monday night as José Mourinho and Chelsea were reminded exactly why they’re pursuing the England international. But it seems as though Rooney will be staying at United as Chelsea have all but conceded defeat in the race for the strikers signature.

As mentioned Toure will be missing for Liverpool and so will midfielder Joe Allen and new signing Aly Cissokho who were all injured in Liverpool’s draining 4-2 win over Notts County. Moyes has no real injury concerns as Phil Jones recovered from a slight back injury against Chelsea.

Expect plenty of passion, meaty tackles and drama as two English heavyweights collide in one of the greatest derbies in world soccer.

What they’re saying

Brendan Rodgers on the importance of the derby: “Liverpool v Manchester United is a massive game. It’s more than a football game, it’s a story of two cities and you’re representing the people of your city and the history of that city. It’s more than a football match. But it’s important that you retain that calmness and belief on the field, to get the result – because, ultimately, that’s what it’s about.”

David Moyes on Wayne Rooney: “He’s looking in good condition and is mentally in good shape. We’ll do everything we possibly can to keep that going and need him to keep performing well. At the moment, he’s in good shape. Wayne Rooney has been a great player for many years for Manchester United. He was an up and coming great player as a young boy at Everton and his career has gone the way that people expected it to go.”

United’s Rio Ferdinand on facing Liverpool: “The rivalry is always going to be huge. You still get a different type of feeling when it’s Liverpool – just the history between the clubs and the success Liverpool have had and the success we’ve had in recent years… On the pitch, you can sense the atmosphere leading up to the game and during the game. You know what it means to the people of Manchester to beat Liverpool, especially at Anfield.


What a tremendous spectacle this promises to be as two massive rivals square up for an early season clash at one of soccer’s greatest amphitheaters. This rich rivalry is engrained in the citizens of Manchester and Liverpool and both sets of players will be acutely aware of it. Liverpool have had a great start to the season but this is a massive step up for Rodgers’ men. The Kop will roar them on but United will be tough to break down. Expect a draw here.

Report: Guardiola to take manager’s job at Man City next season

Pep Guardiola, Bayern Munich

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Manchester City desperately want to lure Pep Guardiola away from Bayern Munich and pay the Spaniard tactician lots and lots of money to come manage in the Premier League.

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Of course we’ve all heard it before — a number of times, in fact. So, what’s different about the latest report, hitting the headlines very late Thursday night in Europe, linking the 44-year-old to Man City?

Well, apparently, we’ve moved past “Man City will offer Guardiola whatever he wants to come to the Etihad Stadium,” and arrived at “Guardiola has agreed terms to become manager at Man City.”

However, the respected Spanish radio station Cadena COPE is reporting that Guardiola has already decided he would like “a change of scenery” and will succeed Manuel Pellegrini at the Etihad Stadium.

“Pep Guardiola will leave Bayern Munich at the end of this season and will train Manchester City next season,” read the report.

“Guardiola has decided on a change of scenery. He considers his time in Germany will end on 30 June after three seasons and, therefore, fulfil one of his wishes: to coach in England.”

With all due respect to every player Man City have signed in the last decade, the acquisition of Guardiola would be, by far, their greatest coup to date — a manager with a clear ethos, a clear plan of action and a track record of having succeeded and won in the UEFA Champions League, which remains the most elusive trophy to City’s cabinet.

Mourinho-Costa feud could mean January transfer activity for Chelsea

Diego Costa & Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC
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Perhaps no man in the footballing world has been embroiled in more controversy this season than Jose Mourinho, who remains in charge of Chelsea despite a horrid start to the club’s 2015-16 Premier League campaign.

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The Portuguese mastermind has fallen out with a number of his own players and staff this season, so why not add another name to the growing list? Come on down, Diego Costa, you’re Mourinho’s next combatant.

The two reportedly got into a heated locker-room exchange following Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv. Given Costa’s increasingly poor form all the way back to the final weeks and months of the 2014-15 season — just seven goals scored in the last 10 months — Mourinho is reportedly less and less sure the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard is the right man to lead the line for the reigning PL champions.

The details of Mourinho and Costa’s halftime spat, from the Guardian:

Mourinho, just as he did after a similar situation against Norwich on Saturday, made his frustrations clear at the forward’s lack of anticipation over an Eden Hazard pass, which would have provided the striker with a tap-in had he been on the move. Costa returned his manager’s remonstrations in kind. Oscar and John Terry tried to calm him down only to be pushed aside. The manager subsequently suggested there had been “a few kisses, a few cuddles” in the dressing room at the interval, and “no problem,” though the public show of dissent was notable.

The club’s hierarchy is reportedly considering dipping into the transfer market in January — something they’re extremely loath to do — to replace the misfiring Costa. The names of Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin Van Persie and Saido Berahino are the biggest currently linked with the Blues, given the lack of elite players typically available — as well as not being cup-tied in the Champions League — during the January window.

Chelsea, who currently sit 15th in the PL, return to league action on Sunday when they visit Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane (Watch live at 6:30 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra).

Wenger expects “hunting lion” Sanchez to be fit for Norwich clash

Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC
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Alexis Sanchez is, by regular human standards, questionable for Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Norwich City on Sunday (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on Live Extra), thanks to a tweak to his hamstring during Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb.

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There’s just one problem with the above premise: Sanchez, according to manager Arsene Wenger, isn’t exactly human; he’s more like a lion, says Wenger — a hunting lion chasing after and feasting on its prey.

Wenger, on Sanchez’s ability to recover quickly and star for the Gunners — quotes from the Guardian:

“When he does something, he does it 100%. He finishes and you think: ‘He’s dead now.’ But then he recovers and gives 100% again. You always see signs of exhaustion but it’s not [that], because two days later, he’s fine.

“His style is very explosive, it’s a very committed style. Jamie Vardy is a bit similar. When they go, they go. They are like the lion. He has to catch the animal in the first 200 metres. If he doesn’t get there, he’s dead [on his feet] afterwards. They are these kind of killers. When they go, it is to kill and after, they have to stop.”

“I take information, especially from the medical people who know him and treat him everyday and after, we look at his overall recovery as well. When there are alarming signs, we want to make the right decision at the right moment but as long as the guys are confident, they score goals – it is always difficult to rest them.”

Sanchez’s production this season — 9 goals, 4 assists in 17 appearances – all competitions — is right on par with his spectacular debut in the PL last season. “What is also remarkable is that he goes to South America to play,” Wenger went on to say. “He comes back on Thursday night and on Saturday he can play without a problem, even if he’s jet-lagged.”

Expect Sanchez to feature on Sunday, and probably to score a goal or two, as well.

“Unprofessional” Grealish banished to U-21s after nightclub incident

Jack Grealish, Aston Villa FC
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2015 has been an eventful calendar year for Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish, to say the least.

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First, there was his emergence as a prominent first-team player for his boyhood club; followed by the Villans’ run to the FA Cup final in May; then came the England-versus-Ireland tug-of-war for his international services; a forgettable vacation to Spain for the 20-year-old; and another managerial change at Villa Park. After yet another off-field incident last weekend, in which Grealish was photographed in a nightclub hours after a 4-0 defeat to Everton, his new manager, Remi Garde, has labeled Grealish “unprofessional” and sent him away to train with the club’s U-21 side.

Garde, on Grealish’s actions and subsequent punishment — quotes from the Guardian:

“This is not professional. It is not what is expected from my players. That is why now Jack is training with the under-21 team for the moment. He won’t be included in the squad for Watford. At this stage he is not playing this weekend and he is training with the under-21 team. That is all I can say for the moment.”

“Sometimes players in every country ask to stay in the city we have played in and this is not a problem for me, it happens one or two times a season. The problem with Jack was not that he wasn’t on the bus. The problem was elsewhere.”

Villa, who will welcome 13th-place Watford to Villa Park on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on Live Extra), currently sit rock bottom in the Premier League (5 points from 13 games), five points away from climbing out of the relegation zone.