Liverpool may try to take advantage of Manchester United’s defensive crisis by handing record signing Andy Carroll his debut in Sunday’s highly-anticipated northwest derby.
United, who lead the Barclays Premier League by four points despite having lost two of their last four matches, go into the game at Anfield without central defenders Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans.
A thigh injury has prevented Carroll from playing for Liverpool since his $56 million move from Newcastle on January 31, but this could be the perfect occasion for the England striker to make his debut.
“Whether he will be involved on Sunday, I’m sure Fergie (United manager Alex Ferguson) would love to know,” Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said.
“We have said all along we have been delighted with his progress and what he has done. There has not been anything which he has done which has not been encouraging.”
United’s first stumble of the season has coincided with the absence of key defensive players.
Ferdinand and Evans have missed the last few weeks through injury, while Gary Neville retired last month.
Fellow right-back Rafael has been absent through a mixture of injury and suspension.
To make matters worse ahead of this weekend, Vidic is suspended after receiving a red card in the 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on Tuesday. Left back Patrice Evra is an injury doubt.
A central-defensive combination of the rarely-used Wes Brown and the inexperienced Chris Smalling could struggle if Carroll is chosen to play up front with Luis Suarez, another recent Liverpool signing.
“Obviously the Carroll-Suarez (partnership) is something everyone’s been talking about since the January window when we brought them both in, and it will be nice to see them as a partnership sometime in the future,” Liverpool assistant manager Steve Clarke said.
by Buford Balony