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.

Real Madrid 1-0 (1-0, agg.) Manchester City: Lackluster Citizens bow out of UCL

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 04:  Gael Clichy of Manchester City and Gareth Bale of Real Madrid challenge for posession during the UEFA Champions League semi final, second leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 4, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images )
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  • Kompany lasts just nine minutes
  • Fernando scores own goal
  • Real headed to 14th UCL final

Ninety minutes came and went but Manchester City never showed up, losing to Real Madrid 1-0 and bowing out of the UEFA Champions League in the semifinals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

Fernando’s own goal in the first half was enough to send Real to a record 14th Champions League final, while City must now shift their focus back to the Premier League.

The Champions League final on May 28 will be a rematch of the 2014 final, a Madrid derby between Real and Atletico.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The match got off to a brutal start for Manchester City as Vincent Kompany lasted just nine minutes before going down with a thigh injury. The Belgian center-back has been plagued by muscle injuries all season and Manuel Pellegrini was forced to make an early substitution, bringing in Eliaquim Mangala to replace his captain.

Real Madrid would find the tie’s first goal in the 20th minute, although it would come off the foot of City’s Fernando. Gareth Bale streaked in from the right wing and tried to play a cross into the box, but his attempt deflected off of a sliding Fernando and sailed into the top corner at the far post. Originally given to Bale, it was later ruled an own goal.

Real thought they had a second when Pepe put the ball in the back of the net off a scramble in the box, but the defender was correctly ruled offside as City remained just a goal behind.

It took nearly the entire first half, but City finally created a chance in the 44th minute. Fernandinho found himself upfield and took a pass from Kevin De Bruyne towards the box. The Brazilian cut onto his right foot and fired a shot on goal, but it hit the outside of the post and deflected wide.

[ RELATED: Has Pep Guardiola’s tenure at Bayern Munich been a failure? ]

After the break it was more Madrid pressure, with Joe Hart making a massive stop on Luka Modric just minutes into the second half to keep City alive. Gareth Bale also saw a header rattle off the crossbar as Real continued to control the match.

Just one goal would put City through to the final, but Pellegrini’s side never threatened Keylor Navas, registering just one shot on target. In City’s biggest match in recent history, they were simply not good enough as they must now focus on a top-four finish in England.

Vincent Kompany forced off just nine minutes into Man City’s UCL semi

MADRID, ENGLAND - MAY 04: Pepe of Real Madrid checks on the injured Vincent Kompany of Manchester City  during the UEFA Champions League semi final, second leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester City FC at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 4, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Vincent Kompany managed just nine minutes in Manchester City’s Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid before going down with a thigh injury.

The City captain pulled up around midfield and immediately went down, replaced by Eliaquim Mangala.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Real Madrid vs. Man City ]

Earlier this season in the Champions League, Kompany lasted just six minutes before leaving the pitch with a calf injury against Dynamo Kiev.

At 30-years-old, injuries have been Kompany’s biggest enemy this season, with the Belgian center-back managing just 13 starts in the Premier League.

Anfield nights: Liverpool prepares for second leg vs Villarreal

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 04:  Dejan Lovren (L) and Jurgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool arrive for a press conference ahead of the UEFA Europa League Semi-Final Second Leg match against Villarreal at Melwood Training Ground on May 4, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images)
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Denis Suarez found Adrian Lopez on a streaking counter attack in the last gasps of stoppage time, breaking 90 minutes worth of stern resilience from Liverpool.

What a difference a minute can make.

Villarreal enters the second leg of its UEFA Europa League semifinal against Liverpool with a 1-0 lead and the knowledge that a draw or one-goal scoring loss will put it into the final.

[ PL PLAYBACK: What does Leicester’s title say for the future? ]

For their part, the Reds will be amped up by the Anfield faithful on Thursday, and Jurgen Klopp will hope to make amends for a Starting XI and substitution set that left Liverpool fans asking, “Why no Sturridge, boss?

Liverpool won’t be too worried, though, given its Europa record when in need of a comeback. The Reds came back to topple Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals, one of the most enthralling matches in recent memory.

Suffice it to say that Reds don’t want to go down 2-0 again, and expect a bit more of a chess match this go-round. Here’s Dejan Lovren, from LiverpoolFC.com:

“[It will be] maybe even more than 90 minutes, so like I said – we need to be clever enough. We don’t just have 20 minutes to play the game, we have 90 minutes so everything is possible. The fans know and are expecting a massive game, but we will take it smarter than the last time [against Dortmund]. It would be a great season for us if we go to the final and win it.”

Klopp opted to rest several regulars in Sunday’s loss to Swansea, with names like Smith, Stewart, Ojo, Chirivella and Ward on the pitch. Those will likely give way to more established names Mignolet, Lucas and Lallana come Friday.

Villarreal is coming off a 2-0 win over Valencia, and holding onto a shutout streak of more than three matches (including Thursday’s win over Liverpool). They’ll have to do very well to hold Liverpool scoreless, but perhaps a road goal will be all “The Yellow Submarine” needs to advance to the final in Basel.

UCL FOLLOW LIVE: Man City looks to upend Real Madrid in Spain

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 26:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City and Pepe of Real Madrid CF battle for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Manchester City FC and Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium on April 26, 2016 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Real Madrid needs a win at home against Manchester City to give the UEFA Champions League its second Madrid Derby final in three years.

Kickoff is at 2:45 p.m. ET from the Bernabeu and, unlike the first leg, Cristiano Ronaldo will be in the lineup for Real Madrid.

[ UCL: Pellegrini hails road record | Ronaldo in ]

Man City has Yaya Toure back in the fold, and Vincent Kompany will captain the unit.

To follow live, click here.

LINEUPS

Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Kroos, Modric, Bale, Jese, Isco, Ronaldo. Subs: Casilla, Varane, James, Kovacic, Lucas Vazquez, Danilo, Borja Mayoral.

 Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Clichy, Fernando, Fernandinho, Toure, Navas, De Bruyne, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Mangala, Kolarov, Delph, Sterling, Bony, Iheanacho.