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United fans prepare beach assault

Liverpool's online club shop has sold out of beach balls, and it's believed Manchester United fans could be behind the spending spree as they plot to re-enact the farcical scene in Jose Reina's penalty area in Liverpool's loss to Sunderland on Saturday.

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Anfield stewards will be primed to keep the balls at bay during Sunday's crucial match, where Liverpool will seek to avoid a fifth straight defeat at the hands of their rivals.

Within hours of Liverpool losing 1-0 at Sunderland last week courtesy of a goal deflected in via a beach ball thrown on to the pitch by a fan, the Liverpool club shop's entire stock of the inflatables had sold out after a rash of internet orders.

Other than traders, collectors, and perhaps the odd scout on the look-out for new striking talent, its presumed United fans are the most likely buyers of the balls.

But even if some Liverpool supporters will be suppressing a sly smile at the absurdity of it all, the prospect of a fifth defeat in a row and fifth in 10 Premier League games is certainly no laughing matter.

It would mark Liverpool's worst run for more than half a century and leave them 10 points behind United and potentially nine behind Chelsea, who host Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

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