Liverpool vs Manchester United Preview
|Image from Sky Sports|
Such a big game for both teams as United make the short journey to Anfield to take on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool on Sunday afternoon. If Liverpool win, they will remain at first place in the Premier League regardless of Manchester City’s result against Everton. If United win then it shows that they can perform when it matters and could hurl them back into the top four fray once again. A draw would realistically be a good result for Manchester United as Anfield has had may big profile victims in 2018, including PSG, Roma and Manchester City twice.
|Image from the Telegraph|
These bitter rivals have had some interesting encounters since Jose took charge of the Red Devils. Jose has not lost at Anfield as the United manager and has grinded out not one but two 0-0 draws against Jurgen Klopp’s heavy metal Liverpool teams with the help of an outstanding David de Gea to save United, as is standard these days, denying Can and Coutinho in 2016 and Joel Matip in 2017, reacting to the effort from six yards at a speed of over 40mph. At Old Trafford, United has fared better and although it took an added time equaliser from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to earn a point for United after Milner’s first half penalty, Marcus Rashford’s brace proved the difference in 2018 as United sealed their first victory over the Reds since Wayne Rooney’s rare strike at Anfield in Louis van Gaal’s last season for the Red Devils.
As for team news; Jose Mourinho has claimed that the only two players that did not travel to Valencia and that were fit were David de Gea and Nemanja Matic, this is a worrying statement as United will be likely without top goalscorer, Anthony Martial as well as Chris Smalling, Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw. This means a pair from Eric Bailly, Phil Jones ansd Marcos Rojo will start against the league leaders and I know that Bailly is almost a certain starter after his return to form. He looked sharp against Arsenal as he kept Aubameyang quiet for the majority of the game and used his pace equally as well against Valencia where he seemed the only competent centre back there. Rojo was hauled off at half time at left back because he rarely, if ever, ventured forward to support Rashford on the left wing but was solid at centre back when he came on for Smalling against Fulham so seems to be the ideal replacement after Phil Jones’ horror match in Spain. Antonio Valencia looked better against Valencia and should probably lead the team out as a starting player with Dalot injured. However if the Portugese youngster can be fit for the game, he should start over the Ecuadorian captain as he genuinely offers more in attack and defence. As for Liverpool, they are having their own defensive crisis with Joe Gomez and Joel Matip both out with long-term injuries, leaving Lovren and van Dijk as their only first team centre backs and should start against United on Sunday. Alexander-Arnold is also a doubt and could be replaced with Nathaniel Clyne, who was linked with a move to Manchester before choosing Liverpool in the summer of 2015. It is likely that they will keep the midfield that played against Napoli in Milner, Henderson and Wijnaldum but Keita and Fabinho are likely options off the bench with energy and pace in the former and strength and physicality in the latter.
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Ashley Young was a surprise substitution at half time with Rashford and Lingard on the bench in Valencia but he assisted Rashford’s header and is almost certain to start. Herrera and Matic are also guaranteed starters as Matic has improved in recent games and Herrera has been solid and consistent since the international break. I am honestly not sure who gets the other midfield position, whether it is Fellaini, Pogba or Mata but I hope it is a positive choice in the Spaniard as he at least tried against Valencia to get the game going whereas Pogba was struggling at times not to pass sideways or backwards. Fellaini could be an option as a midfielder while Juan Mata plays on the right, but given Robertson’s willingness to go forward, it seems more likely for Lingard to track the Scotsman back than Mata. Lukaku is also a likely starter despite his average performance against Valencia in which I cannot recall a shot (let alone one on target) from the Belgian. Nevertheless his height could be used against Lovren as it was at Old Trafford and allow the in-form Marcus Rashford, the opportunity to sneak in behind and score for the third game running.
This will be the third year running that Liverpool host United first before making the journey to Old Trafford in the new year and each time previously Jose has got his tactics bang on and United have looked solid. This time round, it could be a little different. If United attack from the start and exploit Liverpool in wide areas, they could nick an early goal and Juan Mata will be pivotal in making things happen. I back United to get a result because I don’t know where it will leave them if they lose by more than one goal and I think it is in the players’ heads to sort themselves out before a new boss is forced in due to the current situation and chops to the side are made…
Predicted Lineup: De Gea, Valencia (C), Bailly, Rojo, Young, Matic, Herrera, Mata, Lingard, Rashford, Lukaku
PREDICTED SCORE: 1-1