Liverpool, Man U in Battle of Reds

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> If Liverpool can win at FC Barcelona, it should be able to beat Manchester United at Anfield.

Updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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If Liverpool can win at FC Barcelona, it should be able to beat Manchester United at Anfield. That's the attitude of the Reds players going into Saturday's high-profile game against the Premier League leader. United has a nine-point lead over Chelsea at the top of the standings and a 16-point advantage over third-place Liverpool. But Liverpool has a 30-game unbeaten streak at home and is determined to atone for the 2-0 league loss at Old Trafford in October. "I think we owe a performance after Old Trafford," Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt said. "If you can beat a side like Barcelona with players of the quality of (Lionel) Messi and Ronaldinho, you know you can beat a lot of teams. It's one of the most important games you can play in the season and there would be nothing better than beating them." Liverpool beat Barcelona 2-1 in the Champions League on Feb. 21 and followed that up with a 4-0 win over Sheffield United in the league. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard says a win over United would continue the club's momentum ahead of Barcelona's visit on March 6. "If we can give a big performance and get the right result, then it will give us all a big confidence booster for the Barcelona game," Gerrard said. "It's just a pity there's not as much riding on this game in terms of a Liverpool title challenge as we'd have hoped." Instead, a United victory would "virtually win them the league", Gerrard said. "It hurts to say this, but United have been playing some really good attacking football this season," the England midfielder said. "They're also really hard to beat because they have some great defenders." Winning streak Liverpool's last loss at Anfield was a 4-1 defeat to Chelsea in October 2005. Since then, the Reds have won 25 and drawn five, conceding only seven goals. By contrast, United has been fortunate to win its last two games - beating Fulham 2-1 in the league on Saturday and, three days later, advancing to the FA Cup quarterfinals with a 3-2 win over Reading. United went up 3-0 in the first six minutes at Reading, then held off a late rally by the Royals. "I know we let Reading back into it, but we have to try to take some of the positives out of the win and some of our football at the start was sensational," United defender John O'Shea said. Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Henrik Larsson and Gary Neville were rested for the Reading game and should return Saturday. Striker Wayne Rooney and winger Cristiano Ronaldo made late substitute appearances. United is still in the running for the treble - the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup. Alex Ferguson's side is now rated as 11-1 to achieve the sweep by bookmakers Ladbrokes. United in lead United leads the league with 69 points, followed by Chelsea with 60, Liverpool 53, Arsenal 49 and Bolton 47. Chelsea won the first silverware of the season on Sunday, beating Arsenal 2-1 in the League Cup final. The Blues have played one less league game than United. Chelsea plays at Portsmouth on Saturday, with captain John Terry likely to be rested after being knocked unconscious in the League Cup final by an accidental kick by Arsenal defender Abou Diaby. Terry was carried off the field on a stretcher and taken to a hospital, but returned to help celebrate the win with teammates. He underwent another brain scan on Wednesday, but Chelsea said it was "entirely routine and normal procedure for an injury of this type and raised no cause for concern". Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel begins a four-match suspension after being sent off during the mass drawl near the end of the League Cup final. The Gunners play Reading on Saturday after two cup losses in a week and three straight defeats overall. Four days after the League Cup defeat, Arsenal lost 1-0 to Blackburn in a fifth-round FA Cup replay Wednesday. Arsenal was beaten 1-0 to PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League last week, Arsenal will be without striker Emmanuel Adebayor and defender Kolo Toure, who are serving three-match suspensions for their parts in the League Cup brawl. In other Saturday games, it's Fulham vs Aston Villa; Manchester City vs Wigan; Newcastle vs Middlesbrough; Sheffield United vs Everton; and Watford vs Charlton. On Sunday, Bolton hosts Blackburn, and Tottenham is at West Ham. It's tight at the top of the League Championship. Leader Birmingham is at home to Cardiff, West Bromwich Albion plays Sunderland at the Hawthorns and Derby hosts Colchester. Birmingham has 64 points, followed by West Brom and Derby with 63 and Sunderland with 60.

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