Fierce rivals set to meet in heated Premier League clash
LONDON - The Associated Press
Liverpool’s Luis Suarez (R) may make his first start since his lengthy ban.Fierce rivals Manchester United and Liverpool meet in an English Premier League game at Old Trafford on Feb. 11. United has a tough match as it tries to keep pace, with traditional rival Liverpool heading to Old Trafford in one of the day’s eight matches - just two weeks after ousting United from the FA Cup.
Liverpool striker Luis Suarez could start a match for the first time since completing an eight-match ban for racially abusing United’s Patrice Evra in October. The Uruguay forward made his comeback as a substitute in a 0-0 draw against Tottenham on Feb. 6.
United manager Alex Ferguson is not too worried about the prospect of the pair having to shake hands before the match.
“I have not even thought about that,” Ferguson said. “It has never been an issue. We are concentrating on the game.” Tom Cleverley could return to United’s midfield after being out of action since October because of an ankle injury, while defender Chris Smalling could also play.
Meanwhile, Manchester City will find at least three highly motivated players in its way on Feb. 12 when it tries to improve upon its flagging away form in the Premier League at Aston Villa.
Only four clubs have won fewer home games this season than Villa but Richard Dunne, Stephen Ireland and Shay Given all have an extra incentive to improve that record because they used to play for City.
The latter pair were even sold by current City manager Roberto Mancini, who understandably tried to downplay the reunion on Friday.
“This is Manchester City against Aston Villa, not Dunne, Ireland and Given,” Mancini said.
But Mancini needs his team to improve upon a run of only one win from six away matches that has helped defending champion Manchester United trim City’s lead at the top of the table to just two points.
City has lost at Everton, Chelsea and Sunderland.
“We knew it was impossible to score three goals in every away game,” Mancini said. “But we didn’t deserve to lose any of these games. At Sunderland we had 70 percent possession and lost to an offside goal in injury time. At Everton we had 70 percent of the ball and had all the shots. At Chelsea it was the same.” Mancini can at least take comfort from the fact that this should be his last game without Yaya Toure and Kolo Toure, with the brothers set to return to the club after playing for Ivory Coast in Sunday’s African Cup of Nations final.
Villa could have striker Gabriel Agbonlahor, winger Marc Albrighton and defender James Collins back from injury, while Robbie Keane will make his final home appearance before returning to the Los Angeles Galaxy at the end of his loan spell.
Also Saturday, it’s: Blackburn vs. Queen Park Rangers, Bolton vs. Wigan, Everton vs. Chelsea, Fulham vs. Stoke, Sunderland vs. Arsenal, Tottenham vs. Newcastle and Swansea vs. Norwich.
Sunday’s other game pitches Wolverhampton Wanderers into action against West Bromwich Albion.
League Championship leader West Ham aims to boost its campaign for promotion from the second tier at Peterborough on Saturday.