Preview: Liverpool vs. Manchester United

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  • 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.

source: Getty Images
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.

Prediction

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.

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.