Sat, Mar 14, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Reds looking for glimmer of hope at United


Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, left, battles for possession of the ball with Inter’s Ivan Cordoba during their Champions League second-round, second-leg match at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, on Wednesday.


Manchester United can effectively wrap up a third consecutive English Premier League title by beating Liverpool in today’s eagerly anticipated lunchtime clash at Old Trafford.

Victory would send the Red Devils 10 points clear of both Liverpool and Chelsea and it is inconceivable that Sir Alex Ferguson’s men would let that kind of advantage slip over the course of their 10 remaining fixtures.

Even if Liverpool can perform as vibrantly as they did in Tuesday night’s 4-0 hammering of Real Madrid and secure all three points, United would remain short-odds favorites to bounce back and win the league.

But a Liverpool win would, at least, offer a glimmer of hope to both Rafael Benitez’s men and a revitalized Chelsea, who will be seeking to extend their unbeaten run under temporary manager Guus Hiddink to seven matches when Manchester City visit Stamford Bridge tomorrow.

The problem for the chasing pair is that United have yet to show anything approaching a whiff of a suggestion that they are about to start dropping points carelessly.

The high number of chances Inter managed to create at Old Trafford in midweek may have offered encouragement to Fernando Torres and his teammates, who emerged as winners when the two sides met at Anfield earlier in the season.

Since then however, United have slipped seamlessly through several changes of gear and they will approach today’s match seeking a 12th consecutive win in the league.

Wayne Rooney believes the pressure on Liverpool to get all three points will ensure an open game, to United’s benefit.

“I think coming to Old Trafford, it will be a difficult game for them,” the England striker said. “They know they need to win, they need the three points. I’m sure they will be up for it and we certainly will be, but they know if we beat them it will probably end their chances of winning the league.”

Both sides will be close to full strength, although Liverpool will have the advantage of 24 hours additional recovery time from their midweek exertions.

The recovery factor could be an issue for Arsenal, who only arrived back in England in the small hours of Thursday morning following their wearying penalty shoot-out victory over Roma.

Arsene Wenger will be relieved today’s fixture is at the Emirates, but the visit of a Blackburn Rovers side that is both desperate for points and on a bit of a run will not be one the Gunners boss anticipates with great relish.

Blackburn are looking significantly better organized under Sam Allardyce and, after taking seven points from their last three matches, have escaped from the drop zone.

Arsenal are unbeaten in 18 matches, but they still have a three-point deficit to make up on Aston Villa, their rivals for the fourth Champions League qualifying spot.

Wenger remains confident that the gap can be bridged and was bolstered in his optimism by the nature of Wednesday night’s victory.

“We showed tremendous mental strength in Rome and that makes me so proud, because it is a quality that has been questioned this season. It will give us more confidence,” Wenger said.

Villa, who have not played since March 4, have to wait until tomorrow, when they entertain Tottenham Hotspur, to see if their sunshine break in Dubai has had the hoped-for rejuvenating effect.

Martin O’Neill’s side have taken just one point from their last three league matches, while Tottenham will be desperate to keep their heads above the relegation quagmire.

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