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United primed to pounce on Liverpool

By Agence France-Presse in London | China Daily | Updated: 2014-12-13 08:05

Injury-plagued Red Devils could be ripe for the picking by archrival

Manchester United will relish the opportunity to inflict more pain on wounded Liverpool when the teams renew their heated Premier League rivalry at Old Trafford this weekend.

Liverpool won both league matches against United last season and notched a 3-0 triumph on its last visit to Sir Matt Busby Way in March, en route to finishing 20 points ahead of its fiercest rival in the final standings.

But the tables have since turned. While United goes into the weekend chasing a sixth consecutive victory - a run that has lifted Louis van Gaal's side to third place - Liverpool's confidence is low.

Having made a dismal start to its league campaign, Liverpool's season nose-dived further on Tuesday when it was eliminated from the Champions League in the group phase following a 1-1 draw at home to Basel.

Memories of last season's thrilling title bid are fading fast at Anfield, but midfielder Joe Allen said the Red Devils will draw encouragement from their last performance at Old Trafford when it makes its return on Sunday.

"We had a fantastic result there last season, so we'll be looking to draw some confidence and inspiration from that performance and try to get the win," the Wales international told the Liverpool website.

"They are great games to play, between two clubs who are massive globally and there's a great rivalry between us. These matches are great to be a part of.

"Last season it was a great feeling to go to Old Trafford and get the three points and all of the players want that feeling again."

Liverpool remains without injured striker Daniel Sturridge, while Mario Balotelli has not played for over a month, but United has injury problems as well.

Chris Smalling sustained a groin injury during United's 2-1 win at Southampton on Monday, joining Phil Jones, Luke Shaw, Angel di Maria and Daley Blind on the sidelines.

City closing on Chelsea

While Liverpool crashed out of the Champions League in mid-week, Manchester City secured its place in the last 16 with a superb 2-0 victory away to Serie A title contender Roma.

It followed a run of four straight league wins that has seen the champion whittle leader Chelsea's advantage down to just three points ahead of Saturday's trip to bottom club Leicester City.

City will learn the identity of its next Champions League opponents on Monday, but goalkeeper Joe Hart has urged his teammates not to lose focus in its quest to topple Jose Mourinho's Chelsea.

"We are confident we can do well against anyone, but it is Leicester now and we have to turn our eyes to that," said the England international. "That's our next big game."

Chelsea saw its unbeaten run come to an end at Newcastle United last weekend, but goalkeeper Petr Cech believes Wednesday's 3-1 win over Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League has restored momentum.

"It's always important to win, especially when you lose a game in the league," said the Czech, who will give way for Thibaut Courtois for Saturday's home game with third-bottom Hull City.

Meanwhile, Arsenal failed to claim top spot in its Champions League group despite winning 4-1 at Galatasaray, but the victory allowed it to draw a line beneath last weekend's dispiriting 3-2 loss at Stoke City.

Arsene Wenger's squad has lost three of its last five league matches and midfielder Aaron Ramsey, whose side hosts Newcastle on Saturday, said the Gunners must take their game up another notch heading into the hectic festive period.

"That is the thing we need to do now," said the Wales international, who scored two goals in Istanbul, including a stunning 30-yard strike with his weaker left foot.

"We have a busy couple of weeks coming up now and hopefully we can take full advantage of them, and hopefully take maximum points throughout December."

In other weekend action, Southampton, which has slipped to fifth after three consecutive losses, visits second-bottom Burnley while high-flying West Ham United will look to tighten its grip on fourth place when it travels to Sunderland.

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