Man Utd v Liverpool preview
Lancashire rivals clash on Grand Slam Sunday
Liverpool have discovered a new-found sense of self-confidence as they prepare to travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United on Grand Slam Sunday.
The Reds had been offered as potential Premier League champions ahead of the current campaign, but when United became the first - and so far only - visiting team this season to leave Anfield with three points in December that prospect appeared as unlikely as the two fierce Lancashire rivals agreeing to let bygones be bygones.
However, over recent weeks there has been a gentle subsidence in the talk of Liverpool's main objective being their battle with Merseyside rivals Everton for fourth spot in the table as aspirations have quietly drifted three places higher.
Table-toppers United, though, have been there, done that and have collected the Premier League winners' T-shirt on nine previous occasions and they will feel they have heard all the stereotypical Scouse self-confident swagger before.
Having thought they had polished off the Reds' title talk four months ago, United will be looking forward to once again ending any speculative wagging of tongues this weekend.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson openly admits his enjoyment of the intensity of this fixture and he will be desperate to maintain his unbeaten league record against his opposite number Rafa Benitez to end any further speculation of a Reds resurgence and reinforce his side's hopes of defending their title.
However, Ferguson has doubts over the fitness of defender Rio Ferdinand as he prepares for the visit of Liverpool.
Ferdinand has been struggling with a back injury and missed Wednesday's victory over Bolton as Ferguson experimented with a new look defensive formation to accommodate for the centre-back's possible absence.
Gerard Pique came in for Ferdinand and Ferguson insists he would have no qualms in continuing to select the Spaniard, but Patrice Evra and Wes Brown could be recalled.
United also have concerns over goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar (groin) and striker Louis Saha (knee) as Ferguson faces a selection dilemma, but the Scot will have no doubts in picking the top-flight's leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo after the Portuguese trickster took his haul in all competitions this season to 33 on Wednesday to surpass George Best's record for goals in a campaign.
Meanwhile, Benitez has no new injury worries ahead of Liverpool's short journey down the East Lancs Road.
Defender Daniel Agger is out after having had a third operation on a broken metatarsal earlier this week and Benitez does not expect his return until next season, while Harry Kewell - whose Anfield days appear numbered - will be missing as he is set to captain Australia in Singapore.
Benitez has seen his side record seven consecutive victories in all competitions since February's FA Cup defeat to Barnsley and he is expected to maintain a settled line-up, although the experienced John Arne Riise may get the nod over Ryan Babel.
Star striker Fernando Torres, the man largely responsible for Liverpool's recent 100 per cent record, will lead the line as Benitez looks to add to the gossip in Lancashire.