Manchester United takes the short trek north to Bloomfield Road where they will to take on Barclays Premier League newcomers, Blackpool, in what should be another feisty Lancashire encounter.
In their last Premier League outings, United scored an impressive 7-1 over another North West foe, Blackburn, while Blackpool disappointingly allowed two late goals in their two-all draw with then fourth-placed Bolton Wanderers.
However, the Reds were last in action during the week and their second-choice team lost quite convincingly to West Ham United in the Carling Cup, so United desperately need to get back to winning ways quickly if they want to remain in pole position in the league standings – especially with tough matches to come.
It will not be easy, though, because the hard-working Seasiders have enjoyed a very respectable start to their first stint in the Premier League.
In their other two matches against the other newly-promoted teams, United scored five goals while giving up two – a 3-0 win over Newcastle United and then a 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion.
The match was in doubt, but Blackpool’s ground staff have done a splendid job keeping the pitch at Bloomfield Road in playing condition with the abnormal freezing conditions that have plague England in the last week.
Blackpool are currently tied with four other clubs, but their poor goal difference see them residing in 11th spot in the standings – just one place adrift of Liverpool.
The Seasiders have conceded a league-leading 29 goals this season, which should have the home supporters in a bit of a bother, because United come into the match as league highest scoring team with 35 goals scored.
On the other end of the field, Blackpool is tied for the fifth with 23 goals banged in, which could be a concern for the United defenders, because they have given up 16 goals this season.
The club’s surprising start to the campaign this season have being very reflective of the mental toughness of their manager.
The Tangerines are led by Ian Holloway, and the boisterous, second-year manager has not altered his personality one bit, and has been quite vocal during his first season in the top flight of English football.
Holloway did no harm to his growing reputation – especially with the United supporters – by leaping to the side of Sir Alex Ferguson and absolutely shredding apart the ill-advised actions of modern-day players and their agents with a passion-filled rant during the whole Wayne Rooney saga in October.
Charlie Adam is Blackpool’s captain, and their most influential player, and the former Rangers midfielder has scored three goals in his 14 starts this season.
A player that has resurrected his career under Holloway has been Marlon Harewood, and the well-traveled center forward has scored five goals this season, but he maybe a doubt for the match with an injury.
Luke Varney, who is on a season-long loan from Derby County, is tied with Harewood as the club’s joint leading goal scorers, but the forward has also done well by providing three assists.
After failing to make a senior appearance for United, Craig Cathcart went to Bloomfield Road this past summer on a permanent deal, and the Reds must be weary of the central defender, because they have been burnt twice by two of their former youth players who scored goals against them during the month of November – Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (Wolverhampton) and Jonathan Spector (West Ham).
Barring any injuries picked up in training, Sir Alex Ferguson should name an unchanged team from the one that beat Blackburn last weekend.
In their two matches since they have been reunited, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov have shown glimpses of a very good strike partnership in the making, and with both players rediscovering their form, United should be in good spirits for the trip to Blackpool.
It will be a welcoming sight for the supporters to see Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic reinserted in the United line-up, because it was very concerning watching the young defenders get incredibly exposed at Upton Park.
It is never easy when it is a derby of any kind, but Manchester United should secure all three points against Blackpool to not only secure back-to-back wins in Lancashire derbies, but retain the top spot in the Barclays Premier League as well.
Out: A. Valencia (leg), O. Hargreaves (hamstring), M. Owen (hamstring)
E. van der Sar; Rafael, R. Ferdinand, N. Vidic, P. Evra; Nani, P. Scholes, M. Carrick, J. S. Park; W. Rooney, D. Berbatov
Blackpool 1 Manchester United 3