For the fans, there's something special about a big match against a rival. There's nerves and excitement and an added dose of expectation and trepidation that comes with facing a historical rival, especially when it comes early in the season and the result could set the tone for the coming months.
Play well and get a good result and everything becomes just that little bit sunnier to either side of it, even the inevitable stumbles and poor performances. Play poorly and lose, and heads can drop. For both Liverpool and Manchester United, with the start to 2015-16 something of a mixed bag at best, this is especially true.
By the end of Saturday, it's likely that one club's uneven start to the season will be seen as solid enough to build off as a foundation while for the other a similarly uneven start could look an awful lot worse. So you get nerves and excitement and the expectation and trepidation. And, for the players, that all needs to be kept in check.
"We have to try to approach it the same way we approach every single game," said veteran Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva during a break in training. "We know there's a lot of talk and the fans are more excited, [but] for the players that have never played in it, they just have to try to approach it the same way that they always do.
"You feel when you get there that it's a different game, but nothing is too different in terms of the football. We have to leave that excitement and emotion to the fans because that's what they should do—be excited about this game. We [can be] excited [too], but in the right way."
Despite that need to keep their emotions in check, it's clear a big match like Saturday's against a rival—both historically and, perhaps, for league position and a place in the top four this season—is important. Approaching it in the right way and not becoming too emotional doesn't change the reality of that.
Perhaps especially for Liverpool, who have had some decent results this season but have yet to look especially impressive at any point and went into the September international break having suffered an embarrassing defeat at home to West Ham. For good or bad, what happens on Saturday will put all of that in context.
"It's probably one of the biggest games of the season," Lucas admitted. "I think if you get a good result there it can give you a lot of belief and confidence going forward. It's a team that will be challenging for the top four and titles so it's a good opportunity for us to put the result against West Ham behind us and start again."
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