Martin Skrtel

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Watch Live: Liverpool vs Manchester United (Lineups & Live Stream)

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One of the most heated rivalries in English soccer resumes with both teams looking to restore the glory days of old as Manchester United at Anfield, live on NBCSN at 9:05 a.m. ET or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

Both these sides sit a fair bit outside the table’s top four, an unthinkable prospect just a few years ago. Manchester United sit in sixth, five points back of fourth-placed Tottenham, while Liverpool has stalled in ninth place three points in arrears.

[ WATCH LIVE: Liverpool vs. Manchester United live online at NBC Sports Live Extra ]

With the Reds averaging a game every three days across all competitions, their squad is thinning as injuries continue to knock players out of contention. Defender Dejan Lovren is the closest to a return from his hamstring injury, but he too is out for today. With Lovren’s central defensive partner Martin Skrtel also nursing an ailing hamstring, that means Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure will continue to deputize in the middle.

Christian Benteke continues to serve as a substitute as Roberto Firmino is still the first choice striker for Jurgen Klopp, with Daniel Sturrige and Divock Origi out of contention, and their best attacking player Philippe Coutinho misses out for the second straight match with a hamstring problem of his own.

For Manchester United, a jump-started Wayne Rooney starts up front in an unchanged squad from from the 3-3 draw with Newcastle midweek, having scored three goals in his last two Premier League games after receiving criticism for his poor form this year. Memphis Depay is on the bench in even worse form, having played just 85 minutes over the last four Premier League games.

LINEUPS

Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Toure, Sakho, Moreno, Lucas, Henderson, Can, Milner, Lallana, Firmino.
Subs: 
Ward, Caulker, Smith, Allen, Teixeira, Ibe, Benteke.

Manchester United: De Gea, Young, Smalling, Blind, Darmian, Schneiderlin, Fellaini, Lingard, Herrera, Martial, Rooney.
Subs: 
Romero, Borthwick-Jackson, McNair, Varela, Pereira, Mata, Memphis.

Liverpool’s defense takes another hit; Skrtel set for six-week absence

Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
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Liverpool has suffered a big blow ahead of the busy festive season, as defensive anchor Martin Sktel is set for a month-and-a-half on the sidelines.

The 31-year-old Slovak had played every minute for Liverpool this season before suffering the injury and subbing off after 40 minutes against Watford on Sunday. The Hornets led 2-0 at that point, en route to a 3-0 victory.

[ MORE: Cheers! Leicester City buying beer for fans to celebrate 2015 ]

There were fears that Skrtel could miss much longer than the six-week diagnosis, but the defender laid out the plan on Tuesday.

From Sky Sports:

“After all rumours going around, I want to say the time I will spend on (the) sideline won’t be 3 months. After I suffered tear in my hamstring and tendon I will be out for 6 weeks. I will work hard on my recovery and will do everything to come back as soon as possible and even stronger than before! Thanks for your support.”

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is without Dejan Lovren already, and Joe Gomez injured his ACL back in June.

Mamadou Sakho has recently returned to full fitness, a good sign for the Reds, and Kolo Toure is also on the roster. Emre Can has slotted at center back during lean times earlier this season.

Manchester City 1-4 Liverpool: Coutinho, Firmino lead Klopp’s Etihad romp

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Jurgen Klopp‘s brilliant Brazilian pair of Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho made sure their manager stayed unbeaten against Manchester City in Liverpool’s 4-1 thumping of the home side at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Both Firmino and Coutinho scored, with Martin Skrtel complementing Eliaquim Mangala‘s own goal with a late volley. Sergio Aguero scored City’s lone goal.

City is in third place, two points back of league-leading Leicester, while Liverpool rises into ninth, level on points with No. 7 Everton and No. 8 Southampton.

Klopp didn’t start a single true striker, with Coutinho and Firmino playing the role for Liverpool. His Borussia Dortmund side won and drew against City in the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

The first half saw Manchester City concede thrice in one half for the first time since 2011. It’s only happened twice in the history of the Etihad Stadium, the first coming in 2003 against Arsenal.

Liverpool opened the scoring as the clock struck 7, thanks to a sizable error from sizable Manchester City back Mangala.

After Coutinho slipped a ball through to Firmino, the latter cut the ball back towards the penalty spot. Mangala’s attempted corner clearance instead was passed behind Joe Hart and the Reds were up 1-0 at the Etihad.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The lead became two thanks to pure brilliance from Firmino and a dash of offside — razor-thin — by Coutinho. Firmino carried the ball toward the 18 before cutting a gorgeous ball through for his Brazilian partner-in-crime to slot past Hart.

And lively Liverpool more or less buried City in the 33rd minute, when James Milner carried the ball up the right flank to begin a play that finished with Emre Can backheeling through to Coutinho, who found Firmino for the 3-0 lead.

Aguero scored an absolute beauty to make it 3-1 before halftime, dribbling across the heart of the Reds’ half to curl a right-footed shot over and around a helpless Simon Mignolet.

At halftime, Manuel Pellegrini swapped Yaya Toure and Jesus Navas for Fernandinho and Fabian Delph, but little changed for the home side.

Substitute Christian Benteke, not a man of great speed, still nearly bumbled his way to a goal on a breakaway, but Joe Hart stymied his shot.

Skrtel made up for the miss less than a minute later, belting a side-volley past Hart from inside the 18. It was clearly a day for the Anfield set.

[ MORE: Click here for full lineups, stats, box score ]  

Costa won’t be banned for clash with Skrtel

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It is believed Chelsea forward Diego Costa will not be facing a retrospective ban after appearing to kick out at Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel during the Reds’ 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

[ MORE: Saints, Cherries rivalry ]

Costa, 27, has previously been handed retrospective bans on two occasions in 2015 after video evidence was used by the English FA to charge the Spanish international striker. There were fears from within Chelsea’s camp that Costa could once again face at least three matches on the sidelines but is it believed that referee Mark Clattenburg saw no malice in the incident between Costa and Skrtel who have been frequent sparring partners in recent seasons.

The incident in question occurred in the second half of Chelsea’s latest defeat — their sixth in 11 Premier League games this season and third at home — as Costa and Skrtel came together on the halfway line and both players ended up in a heap on the ground. As both tried to get up, Costa appeared to kick out at Skrtel’s stomach and although the Slovakian center defender didn’t make a meal of it, he certainly could have. Referee Clattenburg was only stood a few yards away from the incident and decided against taking action during the game and numerous reports claim there will be no independent panel reviewing the incident.

[ MORE: Mourinho speechless after Chelsea defeat ]

In the first half Skrtel appeared to catch Costa with an elbow to the face and the duo have a long history of clashes both with their club sides and on the international stage. Costa was handed previous retrospective bans for striking Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny in the face in Chelsea’s 2-0 win in September, plus also for stamping on Liverpool’s Emre Can during a League Cup semifinal clash in January this year.

You have to say that Costa escaping any kind of sanctions for this action is a little surprising, especially as he appeared to deliberately kick out at Skrtel. His reputation precedes him but you can’t excuse actions like this. This is not a case of Chelsea being vilified but a case of Costa not playing with the rules of the game. The Brazilian born forward must grow up and stop putting himself, and more importantly his team, in tough situations due to his inability to control his aggression. Yes, Costa plays on the edge and that is why up until now he has enjoyed plenty of success in his career, but every player needs to improve and develop as their careers play out.

Costa’s inability to do that and curb his aggressive nature could cost his team dear amid desperately poor results and in a time where they can ill afford any more indiscretions from their star forward.

Arsenal 0-0 Liverpool: Gunners, Reds stalemate in exciting, end-to-end affair

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  • Petr Cech made a pair of stunning saves to keep Arsenal level just before halftime
  • Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool kept their third clean sheet in three games
  • With the draw, Arsenal sit on 4 points from three games — 9th in the PL table
  • Meanwhile, Liverpool are on 7 points — good for 3rd in the PL

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

Philippe Coutinho nearly gave the visitors a lead less than three minutes into the game, when James Milner played a through ball to Christian Benteke in the right attacking channel, Benteke cut the ball back toward the penalty spot and Coutinho’s right-footed curler hit the underside of the crossbar but caromed back into the field of play.

Arsenal thought they had taken an early lead in the 8th minute, through Aaron Ramsey’s near-post finish, but the Welshman was flagged for offside as Santi Cazorla played the ball into the penalty area. Replays seemed to indicate Martin Skrtel had kept Ramsey onside, meaning the goal should have stood.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

Coutinho’s influence on the game continued into the 25th minute, when the Brazilian midfielder slotted a clever through ball past three defenders to put Milner in on goal. If not for Gabriel Paulista’s late-arriving challenge, Milner’s first touch was to be an unobstructed shot on goal. As it was, Milner ended up with a tough outside-of-the-foot shot, which Petr Cech got down quickly to hold.

Throughout the entire first half, Arsenal’s midfield and defense showed a real penchant for giving the ball away deep inside their own half. In the 39th minute, they had seemingly been punished for a bad giveaway by Hector Bellerin. Roberto Firimino won the ball, whipped in a cross that eluded two Arsenal defenders and found Benteke, unmarked, at the back post. With the goal gaping, Benteke simply needed to touch the ball over the line, but out of nowhere came Cech to tip the ball around the post.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Cech made another stunning save in the 45th minute (above video), when he went full stretch to get the slightest of touches on a curling effort from Coutinho. After freeing up space with a fancy double move on Bellerin, Coutinho cut toward the corner of the 18-yard box and unleashed a right-footed curler destined to sneak inside the far post, if not for Cech’s intervention and touch onto the post.

Alexis Sanchez went agonizingly close in the 60th minute, when his left-footed effort from close range hit the outside of Simon Mignolet’s left-hand post and went out of play. Cazorla played a diagonal ball into the box, where Olivier Giroud laid it off first-time to Sanchez for the shot from the corner of the six-yard box.

[ MORE: Click here for full lineups, stats, box score

If not for a slight slip inside the box, Giroud might have given Arsenal a breakthrough goal himself in the 70th minute. After a quick one-touch pass from Ramsey, the big French striker found himself behind Dejan Lovren, but as he went to shoot with his left foot, Giroud’s plant foot gave way, causing him to slide into the ball rather than strike it with power and control, and Mignolet made the diving stop.