United aim to slay Liverpool jinx in Premiership hunt
LONDON: Michael Carrick believes Manchester United can open the door to an unprecedented fourth consecutive Premier League title by slaying their recent Liverpool jinx this weekend.
Liverpool have won the last three meetings with their biggest rivals, and despite struggling this season, will travel to Old Trafford on Sunday buoyed by memories of how they took United apart in a 4-1 win at the Theatre of Dreams last season.
Buoyed as well from trouncing Lille 3-0 on Thursday to qualify for the Europe League quarter-finals.
Rafael Benitez's side desperately need to take something from the match as they battle Tottenham, Manchester City and Aston Villa for the final Champions League qualifying spot.
United also have virtually no margin for error in a three-way title race with Chelsea and Arsenal but Carrick insists that Sunday's showdown will be approached with relish rather than nerves.
"The confidence is there," the England midfielder said. "We are playing some good stuff and have been on quite a good run lately. There are still eight games to go in the league and we need to carry our present run of results right to the very last game.
"I am sure it is going to go right down to the wire, so there is no way we will be taking our foot off the gas just yet."
United expect to have veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs available following his recovery from a broken arm but South Korean star Park Ji-Sung will expect to retain a starting role following some sparkling recent performances, including a key central-midfield cameo in the Champions League destruction of AC Milan last week.
"We are looking forward to it," Park said. "You can feel the atmosphere is different for a game against Liverpool than for other games. You know the history and the rivalry.
"There have been some great games between the two teams and we lost at Anfield earlier this season so there is an element of revenge. But we are ready to play against them and this time I hope we show our strength."
Chelsea will seek to bounce back from their Champions League exit at the hands of Inter Milan when they travel to Blackburn on Sunday.
Tuesday's home defeat by an Inter side managed by former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho will take some digesting, but Didier Drogba insists it will only fuel Chelsea's determination to reclaim a trophy Chelsea last claimed in 2006, Mourinho's last full season in charge.
"We are disappointed but we have to come back stronger because the league is going to be a big battle," the Ivory Coast striker said.
Arsenal will be counting on fit-again skipper Cesc Fabregas to spearhead their push for their first title since the 2004 'Invincibles' campaign, but the Gunners will once again be without centreback William Gallas for West Ham's visit to the Emirates on Saturday.
"It is an endless calf strain that William has, so we need Sol Campbell and Mikael Silvestre to be highly ready to help us out," reported Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.
Elsewhere, Aston Villa could further strengthen their hand in the battle for Champions League football by beating local rivals Wolves in a Saturday lunchtime derby clash. But on-form Tottenham will retain the coveted fourth place if they can take all three points from a tricky trip to Stoke later in the day.
Manchester City, arguably the best placed of the four clubs involved in this particular battle, are at Fulham on Sunday.
Relegation-threatened Hull begin life under new manager Iain Dowie by entertaining bottom side Portsmouth, whose survival chances disappeared with the imposition of a nine-point penalty for going into administration earlier this week.
Burnley are now regarded as the favourites to join Hull and Portsmouth in dropping out of the top flight but that could change if they can take something from Saturday's short trip to Wigan.
Fixtures (1500 GMT unless stated)
Arsenal v West Ham (1730 GMT), Aston Villa v Wolves (1245 GMT), Everton v Bolton, Portsmouth v Hull, Stoke City v Tottenham, Sunderland v Birmingham, Wigan v Burnley
Blackburn v Chelsea (1600 GMT), Fulham v Man City, Manchester Utd v Liverpool (1330 GMT)