LIVERPOOL VS MANCHESTER UNITED: PREVIEW
Liverpool are back in the top four race after putting together a decent little run. The Reds’ aspirations will face a stern test when in-form Manchester United come to town on Sunday (16:30 GMT kickoff). Here’s a preview of what is set to be an enthralling encounter between these two old foes.
The Reds were victorious last time out, eventually grinding down a stubborn Wolves outfit to come away with all three points at Anfield. It was tough viewing at times, with Jürgen Klopp’s men still looking some way off their effervescent best.
The first half was especially dull, with the hosts best chances falling to Harvey Elliott. The youngster couldn’t add to his tally for the season and so it remained goalless at the break. As a matter of fact, Julen Lopetegui’s men shaded the expected goals (xG) for the half (0.93 to 0.90).
The second period was much more like it as Liverpool struck three times (with one chalked off after a VAR review) whilst restricting the visitors to zero attempts. The victory backed up recent wins over Everton and Newcastle United.
Add the goalless draw at Selhurst Park into the mix and it’s a run of four consecutive clean sheets, the first time the side has managed this feat all season. A belated back to basics approach has seen an improvement in recent weeks.
Six clean sheets in the last nine matches across all competitions bodes well. Especially with a certain Marcus Rashford looking at extending his recent hot streak infront of goal. Liverpool will need all the defensive resolve they can muster to halt a Man United side on a roll.
Erik Ten Hag has transformed the Red Devils since taking charge in the summer, overcoming a horrendous start to implement his ideas and principles. Some strokes of genius in the transfer market helped as well, but no doubt a chunk of the credit must go to the former Ajax boss.
A summer spending spree that brought in the likes of Martinez, Casemiro and Eriksen, has been a far cry from the previous scattergun approach. Even Antony (who endured a tough start) has started to contribute in recent weeks, with January loan signings Wout Weghorst and Marcel Sabitzer also chipping in.
It is a happy camp at the minute, a far cry from the chaos of last season and indeed recent years. Ten Hag guided the club to their first piece of silverware in five years last Saturday when his side turned over Newcastle at Wembley to clinch the Carabao Cup.
United have won a whopping thirty games in all competitions this campaign (the most of any club in Europe’s top five divisions), and remain in the hunt for the FA Cup and Europa League after recently knocking out West Ham and Barcelona respectively.
They sit third in the league table, 11 points off top spot but with a game in hand. This has seen some fanciful ‘quadruple’ talk but let’s be frank, this is nothing like what Liverpool went close to achieving last season. Ironically, Ten Hag’s United reign only got lift-off after a 2-1 win over the Reds back in August.
They had lost their opening two league games, with a 4-0 trouncing at Brentford even prompting questions of Ten Hag’s future. That victory over the Reds set United on their way whilst Jürgen Klopp’s men were sent on the opposite trajectory.
Sunday is a chance to close the 10 point between the sides. It will be no mean feat however, with United only losing 3 of their last 33 matches across all competitions. In fact since the World Cup, they’ve only lost one of their 20 matches, with that defeat coming courtesy a 90th minute Nketiah winner at the Emirates.
This is the scale of the task at hand. The Red Devils are arguably the most in-form team in Europe right now. Form they say flies out the window in games like this, but victory will not come easy. Everyone of a Liverpool persuasion, from manager to players, through to the Anfield crowd, will have to be on it.
Since losing his very first home league game against United, Jürgen Klopp has remained unbeaten in his subsequent six matches against the old enemy at Anfield, winning 3 and drawing 3 (with his side scoring 9 times and conceding just once).
Last season’s 4-0 victory bookended the astonishing 5-0 win at Old Trafford as the chasm between the two clubs became clearer. United have managed to catch up and then some since then, but Sunday is a chance to strike a body blow.
For Liverpool, Calvin Ramsay (meniscus), Luis Diaz (knee), Joe Gomez (muscle) and Thiago Alcantara (hip) are all out. Arthur Melo featured for the U21s recently as he continues to build up fitness following a long period out of action.
For United, Christian Eriksen (ankle) and Donny Van de Beek (knee) are both unavailable through injury. Anthony Martial has resumed training following a hip injury but is unlikely to be rushed back. Luke Shaw and Jadon Sancho have overcome illness and should be involved.
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