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Venue – Anfield, Liverpool
Referee – Martin Atkinson
Date & Time – Saturday, October 14th 2017 @ 12:30 BST
To put it simply, Man United are red hot. Liverpool aren’t. United have drawn one game in the season so far, a 2-2 away draw at Stoke, and have won all their other games. Liverpool have had only one win since beating Arsenal 4-0 before the last international break.
The reversal of fortunes that the previous international fortnight brought was unexpected, and it has well and truly given Jurgen Klopp causes for concern, although there is the school of thought that Klopp himself is a cause for concern.
There is no such problem for Jose Mourinho and United. Their new summer signing Romelu Lukaku has banged the goals almost everytime he has taken the pitch, and with every passing game, Nemanja Matic has shown how daft Chelsea were to let him move to a direct rival.
Liverpool’s draws this season have been a massive concern, as the Reds have played well enough to win all the games in which they have ended up in a deadlock. In truth, apart from the game against Manchester City right after the last international break, Liverpool should have won every other game they played. But profligacy in front of goal and the all-too-familiar defensive lapses have haunted the Reds, and in the current scenario, it makes October a month that could make or break our season.
The big one is that Sadio Mane is out, having injured his hamstring while on international duty for Senegal. Mane is a massive loss for the Reds, and it means that we need to wait six more weeks to see the much-talked-about front four of Mane, Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Phil Coutinho to take the field together.
For Manchester United, Paul Pogba will miss out, and the other big news is that Marouane Fellaini injured himself while on Belgium duty, and he will miss this game too. It might have been laughable to say this at the same point last year, but Fellaini is a massive loss for Mourinho’s men. He has been important while popping up with crucial goals and displaying his strength in midfield.
That will mean that Ander Herrera will partner Matic in midfield, while Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will hold the creative responsibility.
For Liverpool, the challenge will be made difficult by the absence of Mane. The most likely alternative for Jurgen Klopp is to move Coutinho out of midfield, and onto the left wing. That would mean Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and Emre Can will be manning the middle of the park.
Much has been said about Liverpool missing chances and our defensive frailties, but it is the Reds’ inability to control games in the middle of the park that is a bigger long-term concern. Liverpool have not been a passing side this season. They have been a side that tackles well and uses the pace of the wingers to move the ball up the field, bypassing the midfield.
Against a side like United, it will be important to go toe-to-toe with Matic and co. to have a foothold in the game. Otherwise, we will be playing into Jose Mourinho’s hands. One can only hope that Gini Wijnaldum will live up to his big-game at Anfield player reputation.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Simon Mignolet, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, Emre Can, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): David De Gea, Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Daley Blind, Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku
WHEN THEY LAST MET
The Reds went to Old Trafford in the middle of the slum in January and would consider themselves slightly unlucky to get only a point from the game. James Milner’s first-half penalty gave Liverpool the lead, before Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi missed gilt-edged opportunities to extend the lead. A Zlatan Ibrahimovic header late in the game gave Mourinho’s men a share of the spoils. In truth, it was a game both sides would feel they could have won, as United did force several smart saves from Mignolet as well.
Liverpool haven’t beaten United since the 3-0 victory at Old Trafford in March 2014.
Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United
Drawpool have been out in full effect lately, and I think that will continue. United are high on confidence, and the Reds aren’t. Mane’s injury doesn’t do anyone any good, as far as the Reds are concerned. Considering the current situation, Liverpool would take a point against the high-flying arch-rivals, but as they say in these games, the form book goes out of the window completely.