Ed Chamberlin: Real Super Sunday
Ed Chamberlin looks ahead to a Super Sunday which lives up to the billing as Liverpool travel to Old Trafford.
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The first Super Sunday of 2013 should be an absolute belter. We start with the classic Premier League fixture that is Manchester United v Liverpool, and that is followed by Arsenal against Manchester City.
New year, old rivalries.
There has been no greater rivalry in the Premier League than Manchester United and Liverpool. For 2013's first edition Skybet have United as hot favourites at 4/5, Liverpool are a 10/3 chance with the draw at 13/5.
It's hard to oppose United in their current relentless form. They have won 40 points from a possible 45 and have now scored 54 Premier League goals - the top scorers in English Football - and that is the most United have scored at this stage in the top flight since 1907-08.
Robin Van Persie has scored 16 of those goals and on a day packed with superstars, our first live game sees the Premier League's top two strikers this season going head to head. Van Persie and Luis Suarez have 31 goals between them, both are in electric form and both are sure to attract plenty of money. Van Persie heads the first goalscorer market at 10/3 (he's only 16/1 to score a hat-trick), with Luis Suarez a 6/1 chance.
In September, RVP scored from the penalty spot as United came from behind to win 2-1 at Anfield. Jonjo Shelvey's sending off proved pivotal as it came after just 39 minutes with the score 0-0 and after Liverpool had made a bright start. There have now been six red cards in the last ten Premier League meetings and a total of 14 reds in this fixture - only the Merseyside derby (20) has seen more.
United have had the better of this fixture of late, winning the last four meetings at Old Trafford in all competitions and going further back, eight of the last nine. On Sunday they have the chance to go ten points clear at the top, which would be a bigger gap than at any stage last season. It was on Super Sunday at the Emirates in April last year that United went eight points clear after they won the early kick off, City lost to Arsenal and we all thought the title race was over.
I'll be back at the Emirates on Sunday as Arsenal (6/4) meet Manchester City (17/10) again. It's no surprise that Skybet have struggled to separate the two sides this week as when Arsenal meet City these days it's always an attractive game to watch but usually a very tight encounter and short on goals.
The last five meetings in all competitions have produced just five goals and the last three League games at the Emirates have produced just one, including two goalless draws. It's easy to see the draw being popular at 12/5 and also less than 2.5 goals at 11/10.
Question: who was the last Man City player to score at the Emirates in the League? Answer: USA international DaMarcus Beesley in April 2007.
Incredibly, Arsenal have not conceded in the last five Premier League home games against City and it's now been eight hours and 19 minutes of football at the Emirates since Beasley's strike.
Arsenal's achilles heel of late has been defending against sides with top class wingers. Arsenal's formation under Arsene Wenger (4-3-3) has been set in stone for years but has often come unstuck against top class sides with orthodox wide men. Arsenal's system gives their own two wide players plenty of freedom to attack but often leaves their full backs exposed.
Manchester United have exploited this ruthlessly but City prefer to attack through the middle with Silva and Nasri buzzing in the gaps behind the strikers rather than taking on the full backs.
Arsenal have a decent record against City in the Premier League, taking more points off them than any other side (69). Key to the home side's hopes on Sunday will be Theo Walcott who has done well since Arsene Wenger let him loose through the middle. Walcott is 7/4 to score again on Sunday and 6/1 to score the game's first goal.
It won't be easy though. He's looked impressive in open games against Reading and Newcastle but City will be a totally different ball game. Will he be able to hold the ball up and how will he fare against Vincent Kompany? This will be his first big test.