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Match Preview: Manchester United v. Liverpool, 03.16.14

Team news, ways to watch, and a full preview as Liverpool travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United.

Richard Heathcote

There's not much to say by way of introduction here, folks. This one feels important in a way that few matches have since the last time Liverpool visited Old Trafford in the midst of a title challenge--an actual challenge this season might not pan out, but given the clubs' differing fortunes in the past few years, there's a sense that this could be one that has lasting implications beyond this season because drama and narrative.

We're all familiar with United's struggles since Alex Ferguson left, and while there's been promising performances in fits and starts, they haven't been anywhere close to consistent under David Moyes. Their win at West Brom last weekend came in convincing fashion, but that came on the heels of a poor display in Athens in the first leg of their Champions League tie with Olympiakos. One step forward and one or two back for Moyes' squad, who find themselves adrift of fourth and in need of at least two goals midweek to salvage any chance at silverware.

There's plenty of talent in the squad, though, with the addition of Juan Mata bolstering a side that's largely the same as the one who grinded out another title last season. At West Brom, Moyes went with David De Gea in goal, Rafael, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, and Patrice Evra across the back, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini in the midfield, and Adnan Januzaj and Juan Mata providing support from the wide areas for Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney up top. Familiar faces on the bench as well, with Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck, Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic, and Shinji Kagawa all available.

For Liverpool:

Flanagan Skrtel Agger Johnson
Coutinho Henderson
Suarez Sturridge Sterling

As we talked about yesterday, the returns of Lucas and Mamadou Sakho to full fitness mean that Jose Enrique is Liverpool's only injury worry. There's still no timeline for the Spanish left-back, but this is as healthy a squad as we've seen in months.

It would be shocking if either started, however; Sakho hasn't played since the loss at Chelsea in December, and Lucas last featured against Aston Villa at Anfield in mid-January. Both were injured in the midst of solid performances, but with the current preferred eleven finding an effective balance, an immediate return for either seems unlikely. That means Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger at the heart of the defense in front of Simon Mignolet yet again, with Jon Flanagan and Glen Johnson again likely in the fullback roles.

Lucas and Joe Allen are options off the bench, with both capable of coming on to solidify the midfield if needed. If they're out, Steven Gerrard starts in the holding role, with Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho once again operating as the more advanced duo. There's a chance that one of Lucas or Allen starts, with the latter possibly included at the expense of Coutinho or Raheem Sterling, but big-match Liverpool has included a fairly predictable setup.

Which means it's all about Sterling, Luis Suarez, and Daniel Sturridge up front, with hopes that they'll again do enough to get Liverpool all three points. At this point there's little reason to think they can't regardless of the opposition, and given the occasion, they'll be plenty up for it. As mentioned, if there is a change it would be Sterling out for Allen or Lucas, but I think we're going to get the Arsenal at Anfield version tomorrow rather than Southampton away.

Kickoff is set for 1:30PM GMT/9:30AM EST, with Sky Sports 1 carrying coverage in the UK and NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra airing the match live in the US. Our coverage will start 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--if you haven't already, sign up for an SBNation profile and stick around.

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