The strange thing is that even when Liverpool are down, they somehow cobble it together to put out a good performance against United at Anfield. In Rafa's last year when everything was a complete mess, Torres horsed Ferdinand to provide the winner before Ngog sealed it. In Kenny's nascent interim reign Luis Suarez swept them aside. Last season, it took a very sneaky Javier Hernandez goal to get United a point, along with some wayward finishing from Henderson and a brilliant De Gea save from Hendo as well. In fact, it's been a while since United completely outclassed the Reds on Merseyside. They haven't won in five, in fact.
To the selection. Unless Rodgers wants us all to have a massive brain bubble before the match even starts, Jose Enrique's Cirque de Idiot performance in Switzerland will probably see him dropped. That means Johnson on the left and Kelly on the right, which does blunt what Liverpool get from their fullbacks in an attacking sense. But I think we'd all rather that than faint when Enrique lines up against Valencia or Nani.
Shelvey's tour de force in midweek almost certainly sees him in the starting 11, plus the notion that Henderson or Sahin will get 90 minutes twice in the span of four days after being out of it for a bit. Small chance Shelvey could be used as an impact sub again, but I doubt it. Though I wouldn't kick things if Henderson was used in tandem with Allen to try and hold down the midfield better. Gerrard is a cert, and hopefully this kind of occasion snaps whatever funk he's got between his ears.
Up front it's simple, with hopefully the slight variation of Sterling on the right instead of left and Borini on the left where he'd be more comfortable. But with Suarez in it, they obviously will interchange a lot.
Things have gone very United for United. Some wretched performances have been salvaged with late goals only they seem to be able to conjure up. Ho hum performances have seen easy victories. It's fucking annoying. They have their first choice centerback pairing healthy, or as healthy as Ferdinand can get. But with his immobile nature and Vidic's wacky tendencies against Liverpool, you are somewhat hopeful that Suarez can make something of it. Rafael at right back has never convinced defensively and might be a red card waiting to join Vidic's red card. Sir could take some of the heat out of this by starting Buttner instead off the dodgy Evra, but you betting on that?
The past three times at Anfield when Liverpool have been the superior side it's been because Lucas has eaten alive who every his counterpart was. Won't have that this time. Allen's pressing ways could be exposed especially on the counter, where United are absolutely ruthless. Cleverly and Carrick (maybe Anderson) will support Kagawa in the middle. Cleverly is a bright prospect and Carrick isn't the space-case he used to be, but it doesn't make you quake in your blue suede shoes. Giggs will be on the left, creaking and squeaking with every step with Valencia more likely on the right.
Oh, and Van Persie will be up top. Here comes that vomit again.
Sadly, though we wish it wouldn't there's so much off-field bullshit surrounding this one that probably won't just fade. You hope that whatever service or announcement Liverpool make about the Hillsborough revelations -- this is the first home match since -- will be respected by the traveling support. You hope that nothing more comes of the Suarez-Evra silliness. You hope everyone behaves themselves during the match, as these days are filled with enough heat and bile. But that's a lot of hopes, isn't it?
I won't say that a win will kickstart Liverpool's season, because we don't know that and that hasn't proven to be the case in the past. I won't say that making the first win of the league against United will make it worth it, because it probably won't. I know a loss will make things even harder on Rodgers, and no one needs that.
But a win will certainly be welcome relief, won't it?
Of the glory on the fields of Anfield road....