There are three key duels in the offering at Old Trafford as two teams, with 12 League Cup wins between them, although Liverpool with eight successes are twice as successful as United, clash for a place in Round 4 of the Capital One Cup.
SUAREZ v VIDIC
After his lengthy suspension for biting Branislav Ivanavic, Luis Suarez is expected to return to the Liverpool team, despite Daniel Sturridge’s goal-laden start to the Premier League season.
Suarez has everything a central defender hates; pace, guile, nous, not to mention being a bit sneaky, ok, a lot sneaky. The Uruguayan will be fresh, certainly, chomping at the bit, hopefully, and who knows he may just have taken on board ALL the rhetoric that he OWES Liverpool and the fans payback for the way they stood by him when many were in favour of shipping him out. In the old days a senior pro would have taken him behind the bike sheds and pointed out to the striker the error of his ways.
Vidic has the kind of strength and tenacity that strikers do not like and a striker of the character of senior Suarez isn’t the kind of individual who relishes a battle. A warrior-like Vidic would win a clash like that every day of the week. The United skipper has learned from his red cards when faced with Torres in the past and if either of these two protagonists sees red at OT the bookies’ money would be on Suarez.
There’s little doubt Suarez will get a chance or two in the tie, but that is all he will need.
AGGER v VAN PERSIE
On paper, and more than likely on grass, the Dutchman will be the winner eight times out of ten. The fact that this is a one-off cup tie does not diminish van Persie’s superiority over Agger who, despite his defensive qualities, is susceptible to the kind of guile and pace the United man possesses.
While van Persie will be deadly in the Liverpool penalty area, so too will Agger at the other end. But the Dane is obviously a more accomplished defender than Robin who is more reliant on his aerial ability in the attacking third than marking a defender at set pieces.
Van Persie will get chances, and probably more than Suarez, which does not bode well for Liverpool’s chances. Last season the Dutchman’s chance to goal conversion rate was 22% compared to Suarez’s 16.1%, which then puts the onus on the marker assigned to them on the night. It was also noticeable last season how reliant Brendan Rogers’ team was on Suarez who contributed to 44% of Liverpool’s goal tally, goals scored and assists, whereas United had 20 different players netting at least one league goal, a club record.
ROONEY v GERRARD
While the first two head-to-heads are attack v defence, the outcome of this tie of the Capital One Cup Round 3 could well hinge on the clash between two Liverpudlians.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that Wayne’s future is likely to be in a deeper role than as a lone striker or any striker for that matter. Much better at moving on to the ball and goal wards than with his back to the target, he has a chance to establish a new barometer by which a midfield player is judged.
Some statement when he is operating in an era enriched by Gerrard and Lampard, but both of those players will be long retired before Rooney assumed the mantle of top midfield man. Crucially the United man is more comfortable than either of those senior pros sitting just behind a striker or pair of strikers, but at Old Trafford he will find Gerrard snapping at his ankles any time the ball and Rooney get into the final third.
While Rooney is just as capable as Gerrard of bursting forward, it is the Liverpool skipper who would edge it in terms of tenacity when a lung-busting break is called for, again and again. Gerrard is also the better tackler and despite the improvement in Wayne’s passing over the last couple of seasons, Gerrard is still the pass master and is more likely to catch his England colleague out by drawing him on and hitting a counter-attacking pass than vice-versa.
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