Hamann: Rodgers must not start Gerrard against Man United
LIVERPOOL v MAN UNITED
(Tomorrow, 9.30pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
This could be Steven Gerrard's last chance to play against Manchester United before he moves to Major League Soccer in the United States. Do you think Brendan Rodgers should start with the skipper?
HAMANN: Emotions must be put aside for a clash of this importance.
Beat Man United, and Liverpool will break into the top four.
Gerrard is still a fantastic player because of his experience, which may be crucial for tomorrow's clash at Anfield.
But the team have been playing well without him.
Unless the Reds captain is 100 per cent at his best, he must be content with a place on the bench.
I can't see manager Brendan Rodgers changing his team just to accommodate Gerrard.
The bigger question is whether Rodgers will start Daniel Sturridge.
Sturridge has been doing okay but he hasn't been firing on all cylinders.
If it was left to me, I will use Sturridge as an impact substitute.
Raheem Sterling should start up front in attack alone and I will move Adam Lallana further upfield and also include Lazar Markovic in the starting line-up.
Which team will go into this game with the better momentum?
People are saying that Man United played their best game this season when they beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 at Old Trafford last Sunday.
I agree that was the first time the Red Devils looked like the Man United of old.
But the momentum is still firmly with Liverpool, simply because they have been delivering the results for the last few months.
Since their 3-0 loss at Old Trafford last December, they have won 10 and drawn three in their last 13 Premiership games.
They are in very fine form and look extremely confident.
Not to mention they also have the Anfield crowd behind them.
Who is going to be the key player for both teams?
Jordan Henderson has really surprised me this season.
His Anfield career got off to a bad start but he has since won over the fans.
Standing in for Gerrard when he was out of the side, Henderson has taken over the responsibility of leading the team and he has been scoring important goals.
The midfield will be the most important area of the pitch and that will be where the most crucial battle takes place.
Henderson must stop United's Michael Carrick, who is United's main player.
With Carrick back, United look like a different team. He pulls the strings and reads the game well.
If Henderson allows him to dictate the midfield tempo, then Liverpool will be in trouble.
Have you been impressed by Rodgers' tactical flexibility?
Liverpool have gone on a fantastic run since Rodgers switched to a three-man backline.
They are now playing with the flair which we saw last season.
His tactical adjustments show you what a good manager he is.
On Monday, he did extremely well in the 1-0 win over Swansea when he switched the team from a 3-4-3 formation to a diamond formation in midfield at the interval.
But tomorrow's match will be a real test of his tactical acumen.
It will be interesting to see how he fares against the Dutch master Louis van Gaal.
Who do you think will win?
Liverpool clearly have the better momentum.
They are the only team in the top flight to have not lost a league game this year.
United enter this fixture on the back of their best performance in a long time.
But you wonder, in United's case, if that was a one-off.
They have got to do it consistently for four or five weeks to show that they have turned things around.
Because of Liverpool's excellent form, I'm tipping the Reds to win 1-0.
And I'm speaking with my head here, not my heart.
* Dietmar Hamann has played for Bayern Munich, Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester City. He won the Bundesliga in 1994 and 1997, and the treble of the FA Cup, League Cup and Uefa Cup with Liverpool in 2001, besides the Champions League in 2005. The ex-German international is the author of The Didi Man: My Love Affair With Liverpool.
BY THE NUMBERS
3: Jordan Henderson has scored in LIverpool's last three EPL matches, as the Reds defeated Manchester City (2-1), Burnley (2-0) and Swansea (1-0).
HAMANN’S PROBABLE LINE-UPS
Liverpool: Simon Mignolet, Emre Can, Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho, Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson, Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, Alberto Moreno, Raheem Sterling
Man United: David de Gea, Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Danny Blind, Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney
Sturridge focused on top four
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge insists that securing fourth place in the Premier League has to remain the priority despite manager Brendan Rodgers suggesting second-placed Manchester City can be caught.
The fifth-placed Reds are only four points adrift of Manuel Pellegrini's stuttering side, but Sturridge believes their focus has to be ensuring they have Champions League football again next season.
With that in mind, tomorrow's visit of arch-rivals Manchester United, who are two points ahead in fourth, takes on even greater significance.
"It is important to secure fourth place and then from there look on," said the England international (above). "To finish in the top four is realistic for us, it's what we're aiming to do, and if we can get higher than that, then perfect.
"But finishing in the top four is the objective and that's the most important thing for us. It's not about aiming for anything other than that now.
"If we can finish in the top four, then we can push on and challenge for the title again next season.
"I think top four is definitely possible for us."
Sturridge spent five months out recovering from thigh and calf injuries but, when he returned to the side at the end of January, he found the team had come through a slump which virtually coincided with his absence.
The top four looked a long way off in mid-December when they were seven points off fourth place and not playing well, but now they look like recreating something similar to last season's effort when they won 11 matches in a row on their way to second.
"The boys have fought back and we're where we are now, and that is testament to the hard work everyone has put in to get to where we are today," Sturridge told liverpoolfc.com.
"It (the formation) is working. Everyone is defending very well, (Simon) Mignolet (goalkeeper) is doing extremely well also. It's great to see and long may it continue.
"In terms of how we go out there with a positive attitude, try to play our football, try to break down the opposition and create chances to score goals.
"Sometimes, maybe we don't create as we did last season but, I feel that as long as we're winning games, that's all that matters." - PA Sport.