• 'We have still won five European Cups,' say Kenny Dalglish
• Liverpool have a virtually full-strength squad for Sunday
Kenny Dalglish has responded to the prospect of Manchester United overtaking Liverpool's record of league titles by pointing out that the Anfield club still have the edge because they have won more European Cups.
Both clubs have 18 titles and, should United maintain their lead at the top of the Premier League, Sir Alex Ferguson's statement that his greatest achievement was "to knock Liverpool off their perch" would have been emphatically underscored. Yet ahead of Sunday's meeting of the two sides at Anfield, Dalglish has risked the anger of United fans by highlighting his club's superior record abroad.
"I have never had any feelings about it," said the Liverpool manager when asked what his reaction would be if the record went to Old Trafford. "You take greater satisfaction when your own team is successful and they have been more successful than Liverpool over the past 20 years. But, at the end of the day, we still have bits we can hang on to. We have still won five European Cups."
Manchester United have three, two of which were won by Ferguson in his 16 attempts at the competition. During Dalglish's first stint as manager, his chief rivals for the title were Everton and, latterly, Arsenal and when he quit Anfield in February 1991 Liverpool led Manchester United by 18 championships to seven.
"I never considered they would catch us," Dalglish said. "I was concentrating on what I was supposed to do, which when they started winning titles was managing Blackburn Rovers. You never look too far ahead and I wasn't doing that then.
"It is to their credit that they have won a fantastic amount of championships and it just shows how successful they have been. I was working for a good part of that time and I had my own battles with Manchester United when I was at Blackburn and then at Newcastle."
Dalglish's managerial record against Ferguson is a strangely unimpressive one. Despite winning three titles while Ferguson was at Old Trafford, he has won only four of 21 matches against a man he has known since he was a teenager. Friday marks his 60th birthday.
Unlike Ferguson, who is likely to be without his first-choice central defensive partnership of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand at Anfield through suspension and injury, Dalglish will have a virtually full-strength side. Of his regular first team, only the right-back Martin Kelly, suffering from a hamstring injury, should be missing. Daniel Agger and Fábio Aurélio are due to resume training on Friday.
Andy Carroll, the man on whom Dalglish has lavished £35m, is likely to be involved in some way against United, most probably from the bench, especially if Manchester United's central defensive screen consists of Chris Smalling and Wes Brown.
Carroll has not played since leading Newcastle's attack in a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham on 28 December and has since struggled to shake off a thigh problem. However, he began training on Wednesday and Dalglish was optimistically coy about his progress. "I am sure Fergie would love to know what is going on with Andy Carroll," he said. "What I can tell you is that his progress has been exactly as we had hoped it would be. There have been no setbacks whatsoever but whether he is ready for a game is debatable. We have always said we would act responsibly with him and the medical staff here have done that."
Raul Meireles, who more than any other Liverpool player has been transformed under Dalglish – all his goals have come since Roy Hodgson's departure – is on course to shake off a knee injury sustained in Sunday's 3-1 defeat at West Ham United.
"We are hopeful," Steve Clarke, Liverpool's assistant manager, said. "Meireles had a little problem with his knee and as a precaution at the start of the second half we thought it better to take him off. Hopefully, he should be ready for the weekend."