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By ESPN Staff

Riera could make Liverpool debut against Man Utd

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has hinted new signing Albert Riera may make his debut against arch-rivals Manchester United in Saturday's lunchtime kick-off.

Riera, of course, is no stranger to high-profile clashes against the Red Devils having spent four months on loan at Manchester City in 2006.

The Spanish left-winger made his Blues bow in a 3-1 victory over United at Eastlands on January 14.

Benitez hopes Riera, who arrived from Espanyol on transfer deadline day after a protracted pursuit, will provide the lucky omen he needs to break his own duck against Liverpool's near-neighbours.

Since he took over at Anfield in June 2004 Benitez has yet to record a league victory over United.

"He (Riera) started his Manchester City career against Manchester United and they won, so maybe he is a lucky man," said Benitez.

The manager has been denied the chance to see his newest signing in match action by the international break for World Cup qualifiers, but that may actually work in Riera's favour as it has allowed him more time to get used to his surroundings.

Benitez added: "I think he has settled down properly and quickly.

"He can talk English so he can understand, and he already knows some of the players - these are great advantages for him."

The 26-year-old Spain international is keen to make an early impression and he cannot think of a better way than with a good performance against United.

"I remember my first match in Manchester was the derby and we won 3-1," Riera told the club's website,

"It would be perfect if the same thing happened on my Liverpool debut. Why not?

"It would be the perfect start to my Liverpool career. We can beat them. It is only one match, only three points, but it is very important that we win, especially because it is at home."

The previous four league matches between the two sides at Anfield have resulted in three 1-0 victories for United and a goalless draw and, as a general rule, the matches tend to be tight encounters.

Last season Liverpool put up one of their better performances but lost to a Carlos Tevez goal and defender Alvaro Arbeloa admits the match is a significant one for both clubs.

"That was a really bad experience at Anfield last season," said the defender, part of Spain's Euro 2008-winning squad.

"I know how much of an important game it is for us and our supporters and we were all really disappointed. It is just as important for me as the supporters.

"I think this game is worth much more than three points. If we beat Manchester United at home we will have 10 points and much more confidence."

The 25-year-old said: "United don't have Cristiano Ronaldo (injured) but they still have really good players like Nani, Tevez, Wayne Rooney and now Dimitar Berbatov.

"I really don't know if it will be easier without Ronaldo."

Hopes remain high, however, that at least one of Liverpool's two main injury doubts will be passed fit to play.

Spain striker Fernando Torres has made good progress from a hamstring tear sustained against Aston Villa on August 31 and is more likely to feature than Steven Gerrard.

Captain Gerrard underwent minor groin surgery straight after the Villa game and although his rehabilitation has gone well he may be held back for the Champions League match in Marseille on Tuesday.


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