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

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.

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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.

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.

Lampard urges Chelsea to sign Terry; If not, would buy his plane ticket to MLS

during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on January 31, 2015 in London, England.
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John Terry is the last of the old guard at Chelsea, and club legend Frank Lampard thinks he deserves to stay at Stamford Bridge.

Speaking with the web site ShortList.com, Lampard also said he’d welcome the defender to Major League Soccer with open arms, and checkbook.

[ MORE: Premier League’s Top Five story lines for Week 26 ]

Saying he’d “I’ll get his plane ticket and get him over here,” the New York City FC midfielder called Terry “quite comfortably” the best defender he’d ever played with during his career.

From Shortlist.com:

“What John offers is a link with the fans and an appreciation of the young players who he would want to help come through. He’s Mr Chelsea. Those are the sorts of players you need at the club. Without telling the club what to do, I think Chelsea are looking to change the old nucleus we had, what with myself, Ashley [Cole], Didier [Drogba] and Petr [Cech] gone, John’s almost the last one standing. But I don’t think he’s going to be an issue with that – he’ll even help the transition with helping the younger players.”

Even given Terry’s dicey at times off-field reputation, there’s merit to that story (After all, you can’t be okay with Ryan Giggs guiding the youth of Manchester and opposed to Terry leading at the Bridge).

As for MLS, plenty of England’s old guard is here already. From the 2010 World Cup roster alone, Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard are in L.A., Lampard’s in New York City, and Shaun Wright-Phillips is with RBNY. That’s already half the number of U.S. players in MLS who played in the 2010 tournament.

Former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke hit with 12-year ban

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 24:  FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke listens to questions during the Post-meeting of Organising Committee for the FIFA World Cup press conference ahead of the preliminary draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at Konstantin Palace on July 24, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Another member of FIFA’s embattled corps has learned his punishment for egregious ethics violations.

Jerome Valcke, the longtime secretary general of football’s governing body, is going to be away from the game for 12 years, banned from the sport by FIFA’s independent ethics committee.

[ MORE: Hiddink comments on USMNT’s Miazga, center back crisis ]

The 12 years are less than a lifetime but more than the recommended nine years. Valcke was dismissed from his post in January.

From the BBC:

The decision has been made by Fifa’s independent ethics committee following allegations of potential misconduct related to sales of World Cup tickets.

During the investigations, several other acts of potential misconduct arose, including travel expenses policies and regulations.

Valcke’s ban is four years longer than the ones issued to Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini.

Allardyce on using USMNT’s inexperienced Yedlin at RB: “It’s a massive ask”

during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Sunderland at Anfield on February 6, 2016 in Liverpool, England.
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Sam Allardyce knows a relegation battle when he sees one, and even an injury crisis has him nervous about using inexperienced USMNT right back DeAndre Yedlin.

The speedy American wingback is on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, and Sunderland’s table position has its manager wondering if he can afford to use the 22-year-old.

[ MORE: Hiddink comments on USMNT’s Miazga, center back crisis ]

Billy Jones is injured, and the Black Cats did not firm up their right back depth in the transfer window. Ex-Celtic back Adam Matthews is among the other options, and played 150 times for the Bhoys.

And Yedlin had just 56 professional appearances and was less than three years removed from two years at Akron when he moved to London.

From the Sunderland Echo:

“We’ve got Billy who has a lot of experience, and obviously we’ve got DeAndre, who has very little experience at this level.

“DeAndre has a lot of qualities, but without that experience, it’s a massive ask to perform at the consistent level that you need to at this stage of the season, particularly with the pressure we’re all under.”

You have to love that following his train of thought would continue with, “but we don’t have any better options, so let’s see what happens!” It’s not quite Guus Hiddink saying of Chelsea youth like Matt Miazga, “We have no fear of bringing youngsters in“, but Allardyce is right in saying the relegation plight is a different pressure than Chelsea’s much safer spot.

This is a big chance — and a big ask — for Yedlin, who replaced Jones in last week’s comeback draw with Liverpool and has only seen Spurs improve since he went on loan. How has Yedlin fared this season? In terms of overall stats, he hasn’t been very good at all, though advanced stats site Squawka says he is slightly better than Jones.

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But in terms of straight-up defending, the USMNT man has done the job a lot better.

Sunderland Yedlin

It would be classic Big Sam to improve his lot in the Premier League safety race because injury forced him to remove Jones.

Go get ’em, kid.

Hiddink on Zouma absence: “We have no fear of bringing youngsters in”

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Chelsea hosts Newcastle United this weekend, its first game since the season-ending injury to young defender Kurt Zouma.

The 21-year-old Frenchman has arguably been Chelsea’s best center back when it comes to marking and defending this season, and manager Guus Hiddink has to find an alternative for the big man.

[ MORE: Klopp updates Sturridge, Coutinho fitness; Backs owners ]

While Gary Cahill and John Terry have the familiar names of the bunch, Hiddink won’t limit himself to veteran replacements. Certainly he could slide Cesar Azpilicueta inside, though that would sacrifice about a half-foot, and Newcastle likes to use big striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.

He also has 20-year-old USMNT back Matt Miazga — who’s been given squad No. 20 — and said the following in Friday’s pre-match press conference:

“We have no fear of bringing youngsters in.”

Could we see Miazga in the fold on Saturday? Hiddink’s comments sure sound like he’d rather not, but all it takes is an injury or an inkling.

Miazga gave an interview to Chelsea’s web site last weekend where he described his play.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“I really like it, it is a higher level, the ball moves much faster but yeah, it is good. All the guys are very welcoming and I am really enjoying it.

“My game is definitely built on winning aerial challenges and tackles. As a centre-back you have to have an aerial presence and win a lot of headers, and my job is to win duels and not let opponents score, so every time I try to get a good tackle in and make my opponent know that I am there and it is not going to be an easy time trying to go by me.”

The ball moves much faster, and we’re hoping to see Miazga move with it sooner rather than later. Will it be this weekend.