The Anfield club take on their age-old rivals on Sunday but have something of a defensive crisis on their hands after two injuries in midweek.
Liverpool’s strong start to the Premier League campaign will be thoroughly tested this weekend, as Premier League champions Manchester United are the visitors to Anfield. It is a blood and thunder fixture that still means a lot to the respective fans, even though the hosts have slipped out of sporting contention for a top four place over recent years.
In any derby or grudge match, every team looks to its leaders and need a talisman to lead by example. This so often in the past for Liverpool has been Jamie Carragher, in games against United and against other top-quality opposition. However, the former England international’s retirement means that others must step up to the plate.
The Reds’ preparation for the game against David Moyes’ charges was less than ideal, with an extra-time win over Notts County on Tuesday night. The fact that the hosts had to play with 10 men for the last half-an-hour was bad enough, but two injuries at the back will also take the shine off the cup win.
French defender Aly Cissokho has been brought to Merseyside on a year-long loan from Valencia, with the aim to provide competition for Jose Enrique at left-back. Unfortunately the new man only lasted six minutes of the Capital One Cup clash, picking up an ankle injury and having to be replaced.
More importantly, Kolo Toure picked up a groin strain and was removed from the action, with his inclusion against United now up in the air. The Ivory Coast international has started the season well, and played a major role in two clean sheets from two games for the Anfield side. He was starting to look close to back to his best after an off spell at Manchester City, and the injury will be a major setback for the player and the club.
With Sebastian Coates out for the foreseeable future, Brendan Rodgers’ options are limited at the back for the weekend. In good news, Martin Skrtel should be ready to reenter the fold after recovering from a knee injury, and will almost certainly partner Daniel Agger at the heart of the Reds’ rearguard.
However, it is not ideal to reintroduce an injury prone defender straight into the starting line-up against a team of the calibre of Manchester United. The Slovakian will need to play the full 90 minutes more than likely as well, which could be a big ask.
Although Liverpool have been eager to bolster their attacking options in the transfer market this summer, the current situation shows that an extra defensive body in the squad would not go amiss. With the likes of the inexperienced Andre Wisdom as the only remaining cover should Skrtel be unable to complete the game against United, Liverpool’s defensive resources look paper-thin.
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