Liverpool FC travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United in the north-west derby looking to avenge their double defeat last season, the second of which derailed their march to fourth place. Manchester United on the other hand will be looking to gain a psychological advantage over their top four rivals. We look at three key battles that will help swing the game in either side’s favour.
1 a Memphis Depay vs Nathaniel Clyne
Both players were linked to both of the English giants, but Depay ended up at Manchester United while Clyne is at Anfield. Both will have the opportunity to show the clubs they are playing against what they have missed out on.
Liverpool FC were looking for a wide player with Raheem Sterling a lost cause, while Uniteda s right-back slot needed reinforcement with Rafael set to leave and Valencia, who is not a natural right-back, being used in that role extensively by Louis van Gaal.
In the end though, Liverpool managed to sign Roberto Firmino — not exactly a wide player but an attacker who can play wide and through the middle — while United signed Matteo Darmian.
Depay has shown how good a player he is in his opening few games for his new club, and is arguably the best Manchester United player going forward. Liverpool FCa s Nathaniel Clyne is their only defender who has kept his reputation intact and has defended well in all of the Reds’ games so far.
Clyne will face one of his toughest challenges this season coming up against Memphis Depay, although the England international will be confident after his display against Alexis Sanchez earlier this season. With Wayne Rooney not in his best form for United, if Clyne can keep Depay under control, it will go a long way towards blunting Uniteda s attack.
2 a Christian Benteke vs Daley Blind/Chris Smalling
Bentekea s physical presence can trouble even the strongest of defenders. Now, if you pit him against Daley Blind or Chris Smalling, that is not really a battle you expect the defenders to win, is it? The duo, especially Blind, will have their task cut out if Benteke is given decent service by the Liverpool wide-men or midfield players.
Blinds inability to head the ball or win a physical duel against the big Belgian may prove costly. If between them, the two can keep the Belgian quiet and frustrate him, Manchester United have a good chance of taking all three points from this game.
3 a Joe Gomez/Alberto Moreno vs Juan Mata
The last time Liverpool FC took on Manchester United, they lost 2-1 at home and their season derailed completely with the Reds finishing a disappointing sixth in the Premier League table.
A major reason for the loss on the day was the ease with which Juan Mata was afforded space in the wide areas. Alberto Moreno is not really a player known for his defensive ability. The Spaniard cost Liverpool in a majority of big games last season, with the one against United at Anfield seeing him once again make positional errors as Juan Mata scored twice.
If Moreno plays, he needs to ensure that he does not repeat the mistakes of last season, especially if the Reds deploy the same formation with three at the back flanked by wing-backs, leading to gaps between the three central defenders and either wing-back.
Also, if Joe Gomez plays in the left-back position, as he has done in every game thus far, Liverpoola s teenage defender will have his task cut out to stop Mata from causing damage after cutting in from wide areas. The dangerous runs of the Spaniard in the box will also need monitoring.
Mata has already shown the damage he can do the last time Liverpool played United. If he is afforded the same kind of freedom again, Liverpool FC will struggle to take anything away from Old Trafford on Saturday.