Liverpool welcome arch-rivals Manchester United to Anfield on Sunday as they look to beat the only side that has taken points off them this season.
Liverpool broke yet another record last week, their 1-0 victory over Tottenham saw them make the best ever start to a league campaign in Europe’s top five leagues. With a full week’s rest, you would expect the Reds to maintain their unbeaten record.
Manchester United have been quite inconsistent so far this season, though they boast an excellent record against the ‘big six’, losing only one game, to Arsenal.
They shocked the league when they went to the Etihad and came away with three points, but can be beaten by well-drilled sides, they lost away to Bournemouth (19th) and Watford (17th) without even threatening the opposition goalkeeper.
Liverpool extended their winning streak to 14 games after overcoming a poor Tottenham Hotspur side last week. Roberto Firmino’s goal proved to be the only difference between the two side. If it were not for poor finishing the Reds should have been out of sight at half-time.
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As the game neared full-time, Liverpool started to tire. The home side spurned a host of good chances to level the game. A resilient Liverpool held on despite an underwhelming performance to claim another big three points on their quest for the title.
A clean sheet meant Liverpool’s first team have only conceded one goal over the last ten games. Credit must be given to Joe Gomez, the young defender looked understandably shaky after a long injury lay off. He has been ever-present over this impressive run and only conceded when Henderson was playing alongside him in defence.
Manchester United have played three domestic cup games over the past two weeks. A 0-0 draw with Wolves at Molineux saw the tie go to a replay, though a well-taken goal from Juan Mata put United through this week.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side looked noticeably fatigued as they have not had a full week’s rest since the start of December and have a few injury concerns for Sunday.
Sandwiched in between the two FA Cup games they dispatched a relegation-threatened Norwich City side 4-0. Two goals in as many minutes early in the second half put the game out of reach for the Canaries after Marcus Rashford gave United a half-time lead. Mason Greenwood, who looks to be getting better every time he takes to the pitch, rounded the scoring off with a well-placed shot from 20 yards.
In the first leg of the Carabao Cup they were embarrassed for 60 minutes by their city rivals. Pep Guardiola’s deployed six midfielders who kept rotating throughout the first hour as they ran riot. Three first-half goals should have been enough to see them reach the final, but Rashford kept United in the tie with an effort 20 minutes from time.
Jürgen Klopp was handed a boost this week as both Fabinho and Joël Matip returned. The boss did confirm that they will be involved in the matchday squad, but a return to the starting XI is unlikely.
Klopp should field the same XI that defeated Tottenham a week ago.
The defence looks as compact as it was last season. This has been a huge reason as to why Liverpool have gained maximum points in the league during its most congested month.
The only case for change is in midfield. Lallana has impressed in recent weeks and his technical guile would be a bonus in midfield, though Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will probably get the nod due to his explosive pace and supporting the attack.
Liverpool’s attacking trio have been underwhelming in the past against United — only Sadio Mané has scored on the league against them. A big performance from the trio is needed if Liverpool want to get three points.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has a number of injury concerns ahead of Sunday’s match. Midfielders Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba are ruled out due to injury, while Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Luke Shaw are all doubts.
Ole said that Rashford is unlikely to be fit, but the Norwegian said the same about David De Gea in the reverse fixture. The Spanish goalkeeper started, and it may yet be a similar story for United’s top scorer this season.
Their defence has looked shaky over the past couple of weeks, not helped by their goalkeeper who has made numerous errors leading to goals. No ‘keeper has made more errors leading to goals (eight) than De Gea since the start of last season.
Three players will be alert and looking to counter-attack when possible. Daniel James, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard will look to do what they did against Man City and hit Liverpool on the break.
The Red Devils have looked leggy over the last couple of matches, as lack of rotation and minimal days rest have meant that the injuries have started piling up. If Liverpool play their normal game of keeping the ball making their opponents work, we could get in behind quite easily.
It is clear that Ole will be looking for a repeat of the performance against Man City, though I don’t think that will work. Klopp isn’t tactically naïve and understands the dangerous United are on the counter. He won’t leave just two defenders back when Liverpool are attacking. Along with the pace of Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk it is hard to see United getting near our goal.
At the other end it’s important Liverpool stay patient in attack. We have remained patient so many times this season, and once again they will likely sit with 11 men behind the ball so space will be limited. We do have the quality to beat them handsomely and after all the rubbish Ole has been spurting out this week it would be nice if we do.
Predicted final score: Liverpool 3-0 Manchester United