In one of English football biggest rivalries, Manchester United will host Liverpool in the North-West derby on Sunday.
The fixture has become more explosive over the past few meetings after the alleged racial abuse directed at United captain Patrice Evra by Liverpool talisman Luis Suarez.
The Uruguayan was banned for eight matches after the October 2011 incident at Anfield and returned from suspension at the next derby at Old Trafford, where he refused to shake Evra’s hand during the pre-match ritual.
After the game, which United won 2-1, Evra celebrated in front of the United fans but in a provocative way to the nearby Suarez and this tension is likely to remain when the teams go head-to-head at the Theatre of Dreams.
With Arsenal taking on Manchester City in the later game, United have the opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the table to 10 points before the Sky Blues visit the Emirates Stadium.
Since a 3-1 loss to Aston Villa at home, Liverpool have won three of their past four games with their only blemish a 3-1 loss at Stoke City, a place no side has won at for nearly a year.
The three victories – against Fulham, QPR and Sunderland – have seen Liverpool score 10 goals and concede zero with Suarez terrorising defences on his way to five of those goals – a sign that the side are finally coming to terms with the philosophies of tactician Brendan Rodgers.
A solid run of form has seen the Reds cement a position in the top half of the table, only five points from Merseyside rivals Everton in fifth.
United have been in imperious form winning eight of their past nine games and despite a knee injury to star Wayne Rooney keeping him out since Christmas, Robin Van Persie and Javier Hernandez have combined to score or assist 13 of United’s last 14 goals.
Defensive leader Nemanja Vidic could return for United to bolster a defence that has already conceded 28 league goals this season – an astonishing figure considering it’s barely halfway through the season and the Red Devils only conceded 33, 37, 28 and 24 in the last four full league campaigns.
While missing left-back Jose Enrique, the Reds have just added young Chelsea forward Daniel Sturridge to the team and he should provide some much-needed support to Suarez, who has scored 15 of Liverpool’s 34 league goals this season.