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Manchester United vs. Liverpool: Team News, Ways to Watch, and Match Preview

Full team news, injury updates, television schedule, and preview as Liverpool head to Old Trafford to face Manchester United.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Liverpool are, unfortunately, in far more familiar territory as they enter mid-December. Last season aside, they have spent most of the past five years on the fringes of the top four, looking for a run of decent enough results to keep them in touching distance and watching the table in hopes that those above them would drop points. Aside from the goals and the winning and the goals, last season was so nice because it allowed a reprieve from what proved to be a frustrating and mostly ineffective strategy. If hoping other teams lose can even be called a strategy.

But that's reality at this point in the season, and if they're going to do something different, now would be a hell of a time to start. Matches don't get any bigger on the league calendar than the ones against Manchester United, and trips to Old Trafford never fail to provide a compelling, horrifying atmosphere. With Louis van Gaal's side suddenly looking competent--five straight wins in league and only one loss since the capitulation at Leicester City--it'll be a stern test for Brendan Rodgers' struggling squad.

This isn't a terribly intimidating United side despite the star power, and the absence of Angel di Maria due to injury will surely be to Liverpool's benefit. That van Gaal will also be without Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Rafael, and Phil Jones should help as well, though United's been able to manage just fine in recent weeks without a number of key names, largely due to the wonderful form of David de Gea.

Last time out against Southampton, a 2-1 win at the St. Mary's, van Gaal went with De Gea in goal behind a three-man back line of Smalling (who was replaced by Jonny Evans), Marcos Rojo, and Patrick McNair, Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick, and Juan Mata in the midfield flanked by Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, and Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie--who scored twice--in attack.

For Liverpool:

Johnson Skrtel Lovren Moreno
Henderson Gerrard
Lallana Lambert Sterling

Brendan Rodgers should have a squad close to full fitness, with Mamadou Sakho fully back from injury and Kolo Toure and Mario Balotelli available for selection. Daniel Sturridge, Jon Flanagan, and Suso remain out, but should be the only absentees with Adam Lallana cleared for selection after suffering two cracked ribs against Leicester City.

With Toure and Sakho back there could and should be questions about Liverpool's best central defensive pairing, but with Dejan Lovren not completely falling apart against Basel midweek, it wouldn't be surprising for Rodgers to go with the Croatian and Martin Skrtel again. Sakho needs minutes after such a long layoff, and the trip to Bournemouth in the League Cup seems more likely than a start here. Glen Johnson will be expected to start on the right or left, and with Moreno rounding back into Rodgers' thinking, the senior man should start at right-back with the young Spaniard on the left.

Steven Gerrard will start because that's what Steven Gerrard does in big matches, and he should be rested enough to feature for an hour (though he'll play the full ninety unless he's sent off) here. Lucas will probably be included again, leaving the third midfield spot up for grabs. It will probably go to Henderson or Allen, but at this point it would be nice to see Emre Can get time. Henderson's been off-form for weeks, and while Allen's been plenty serviceable, it would be nice to see Can feature. Like Sakho, however, the Bournemouth fixture seems more likely.

The return of Balotelli gives Rodgers another option off the bench, though Rickie Lambert seems set to start. Lazar Markovic could come into the picking after two solid substitute performances against Sunderland and Basel, but Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana should start here, with Markovic joining Coutinho on the bench as second-half options.

Kickoff is set for 1:30PM GMT/8:30AM EST on Sunday, with Sky Sports 1 airing the match in the UK and NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra carrying the match in the US. Our coverage will continue with the overnight open thread tonight and carry into the matchday post early tomorrow, which will have team sheets an hour before kickoff. Hope you'll be around to join us, and if you haven't already, sign up for an SBNation profile and stick around.

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