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Liverpool make a short trip up the M6 on Sunday to face Manchester United in one of the biggest fixtures in the English football calendar.
With United having experienced something of a fall from grace in recent years, the game takes on a slightly rarer meaning with the Red Devils, majorly in-form, chasing the Reds, with Jürgen Klopp’s side looking to put further distance between themselves and the team their fans love to hate.
Match: Manchester United vs Liverpool
Venue: Old Trafford
Date: Sunday 15th January
Time: 16:00 BST
Although Liverpool’s form is a little concerning with the Reds winless in three, it’s the performances lately which have been most worrying. With Klopp having been unable to pick from a fully fit squad at any time in the past month, some would suggest that Liverpool’s last ‘good’ performance came against Middlesbrough seven games ago. Before that, points were dropped against Bournemouth and West Ham, leaving a little more cause for concern than many on the outside may think.
Overall, it’s not too bad for Liverpool, who remain in 2nd position in the Premier League table, five points off Chelsea, taking seven points from a possible nine over the congested festive period. However, a win at Old Trafford on Sunday would really lift momentum after the League Cup defeat to Southampton in midweek.
United’s form is anything but concerning, with the Red Devils enjoying what is comfortably their best spell under Jose Mourinho since the Portuguese manager took charge this summer. Nine wins on the bounce has included Europa League, FA Cup and League Cup progression, as well as aiding Zlatan Ibrahimovic and co in their bid for Champions League qualification, with United now just two points off the top four.
Five behind Liverpool, the gap could either be eight or two come Sunday evening, lending huge significance to the outcome of the game.
The big one for Liverpool is Philippe Coutinho. He looked sharp as a whip returning for half an hour against the Saints, and Klopp will be hugely tempted to start him for the first time in over six weeks given that the Reds’ attack has looked a little blunted recently.
There’s other team news though, with Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip main concerns. Henderson hasn’t played since limping off against Manchester City on New Year’s Eve, but is back in training and may well be handed a start given Emre Can’s shaky form. Matip has been out for longer and whilst he’s expected to be back in the squad, the Cameroonian is likely to only make the bench. Sadio Mane is away at AFCON, whilst Simon Mignolet is likely to return in goal.
Ibrahimovic missed United’s midweek win over Hull City with what Mourinho, truthfully or not, called a cold however he’s expected to return. They don’t have Morgan Schneiderlin available to select after he completed a move to Everton on Thursday, whilst Marcus Rojo is the only senior man sidelined, with Eric Bailly away in Africa like Mane.
Liverpool Predicted XI: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Firmino, Coutinho, Sturridge.
Manchester United Predicted XI: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Darmian; Carrick, Herrera, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Martial, Ibrahimovic.
WHEN THEY LAST MET
Yes, it’s still fresh enough in the memory. That bloody 0-0 at Anfield earlier in the season. Just as we were all beginning to get excited about how no team could keep that unstoppable front three out, Mourinho rocked up to Anfield and did what he does best to secure a goalless draw.
Will United attack more this time out? You’d expect them to, given the absence of Joel Matip and the improvements they’ve made since then, adding their expectant home crowd to that. However, you never know with dear old Jose.
- Wayne Rooney is a goal away from becoming Manchester United’s record goalscorer.
- The above statistic is in no way a bad omen for Liverpool regarding Sunday’s match (maybe).
- Liverpool have won each game Michael Oliver has refereed involving them this season (4).
- Liverpool haven’t beaten Manchester United in their last five league games against the Red Devils.
PREDICTION: MANCHESTER UNITED 1-2 LIVERPOOL
I’m strangely confident. Mourinho has got to attack a little more than he did at Anfield, and Liverpool have turned up for all their big league games so far this season. Am I being overconfident? Maybe. But Klopp will know how to set the team up even without Mane, and I’m expecting some Coutinho magic to help deliver a much needed victory.