The grueling international break is done and dusted, and we’ve got a grudge match between Liverpool and Manchester United to look forward to on Saturday. Both teams have lost players to injury; Liverpool will be without Sadio Mané and Manchester United without Marouane Fellaini – both of whom will be missed as they’ve been in prolific goal-scoring form. Liverpool have been struggling a little in their recent matches, while United are still unbeaten but they’ve had a very forgiving run in the league. This will be United’s toughest game so far, and a lot is riding on the result since they’re level on points with Manchester City at the top of the log. We’re going to take a look at which team is most likely to win:
The Game Changers:
Klavan/Matip v Lukaku: Liverpool’s centre backs have come under intense criticism in the league as they’ve cost their team a number of games. Lukaku, conversely, has 7 goals in 7 games and is terrorising defences left and right, so the shaky Liverpool backs will need to improve if they’re going to keep a clean sheet.
Henderson/Çan v Matic/Herrera: Nemanja Matic has added a protective presence to United’s midfield, patrolling the middle of the park and breaking up opposition attacks with frequent success. The Liverpool midfield is energetic and mobile though, so a lot of pressure will be on Matic and likely Ander Herrera to keep the quick transitions of Liverpool’s midfield in check.
Salah v Young/Blind: Manchester United haven’t had a consistent occupant of the left back position for a number of seasons, so it’s one of their weaknesses that Liverpool could exploit. Salah has had a lot of joy attacking from the left side of Liverpool’s attack, so his pace and good movement will be a headache for which ever option Mourinho puts at left back for this match.
Coutinho v Herrera: A lot of Liverpool’s attacking moves and goals have come from the Brazilian, but Mourinho often likes employing a man-marking approach to neutralise an opponent’s best creator. He did it very successfully against Eden Hazard last season, and he may do something similar against Liverpool to keep Coutinho quiet.
3 Things to Watch:
Lukaku’s streak: The big Belgian is living up to his hefty price tag, and if he scores an 8th goal in his 8th game, he’ll break the record that he currently holds alongside Andy Cole — having scored 7 goals in his first 7 games.
Red Card Roulette: Derby matches always bring out some feisty tackles, and Liverpool has had a few players sent off this season already so there’s a definite danger that things could boil over as the Reds look desperately for a win to get them out of 7th place.
History against Mourinho: Coincidentally, Liverpool has had a good record against Mourinho teams in the Premier League, and Jurgen Klopp has a good record against Mourinho in the Champions League. Combining the two seems to suggest that Liverpool have a good shot at getting one over on the Portuguese manager, but this United side are firing on all cylinders so they’ll be ready to put up a fight.
This is a huge match for both teams; Liverpool need a win to claw their way back into the top 4, while United need a win in order to stay at the top of the league and keep the pressure on City. The gravity of the fixture might make both teams tentative in their approach, and these matches have finished in draws frequently in recent times, but considering United’s title push, it’s unlikely Mourinho will play for a draw. This should be exciting and will definitely have a bearing on the title race.
Predicted Score: Liverpool 1 – 2 Manchester United
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