The stage is set for two of Europe’s great traditional rivals to battle, as Manchester United and Liverpool clash at Old Trafford.
The big game this Sunday sees the Reds travel into enemy territory to face a Manchester United side who head into the match on the back of a dominant nine-game winning streak in all competitions.
Liverpool have been the more menacing team this season, but a draw against Sunderland in their last Premier League game and the loss to Southampton in the League Cup semi-final have put a damper on their high spirits.
Regardless of recent form, both teams have the capability to pound the other into submission. The last derby ended in a goalless draw, but fans will be hoping that they set the stage alight at the Theatre of Dreams this time around.
Probable line-ups & Tactics
The Red Devils have been playing with some verve and purpose of late, and it looks like they may just have some of that attacking flair they used to be renowned for. Jose Mourinho is known to be a pragmatic tactician, but the Portuguese manager has been behind some beautiful, free flowing football at United
United will hope to dominate possession and pierce the Liverpool defence with some pacy and precise attacking movement. The two full-backs in Matteo Darmian and Antonio Valencia will be a threat down the sides, with Anthony Martial also a force to reckon with on left-wing.
The likes of Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ander Herrera are threats down the middle, with the Frenchman and the Spaniard adept at shooting from long range as well. The primary attacking focus will of course be on Swedish icon Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Herrera will also play a big role in shielding the defence, while the central pairing of Jones and Smalling have their task cut out for them. They are expected to hold a high line with the assurance of David de Gea in goal.
Probable starting XI:- De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick; Mkhitaryan, Pogba, Martial; Ibrahimovic
The loss of Sadio Mane has been a huge blow to the Reds, with the Senegalese winger in Gabon for the African Cup of Nations. However, another massive blow is the injury to Cameroonian center-half Joel Matip, who is a doubt for the game.
Matip and Dejan Lovren are the two best central defenders in the Liverpool squad, but the loss of the former could sabotage an already suspect Reds defence. Klopp and his men will probably look to take it to United and kill the game off as early as possible by taking the lead.
Adam Lallana has been phenomenal, and will hope to make sure the absence of Mane isn’t felt too much. The Englishman, along with the Brazilian duo of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, will be in the faces of the United defence, and will be ably supported by the likes of Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Jordan Henderson holds the fort in central midfield, but can also unleash a lethal long distance shot of his own. The agenda for the Reds will be to dominate midfield, choke United for space and pounce on any individual mistakes when the opposition is in possession.
Probable starting XI:- Mignolet; Clyne, Klavan, Lovren, Milner; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Lallana, Firmino, Coutinho
- Jurgen Klopp has lost just one of his six games against a Jose Mourinho led team.
- This will be the 50th Premier League meeting between Manchester United and Liverpool.
- The Reds have lost 11 of their last 14 matches at Old Trafford.
- Wayne Rooney just needs one goal to beat Sir Bobby Charlton’s record for most goals scored for Manchester United.
- A win for the Reds would set a club record of 47 points after 21 matches of a Premier League season, surpassing the 46 from 2008-09.
1. Manchester United to win @ 2.15
2. Over 1.5 Manchester United goals @ 2.00
3. Over 10.5 Corners @ 2.00
1. Manchester United Clean Sheet – YES @ 2.75
Player to watch out for:
Even with superstars like Paul Pogba, Philippe Coutinho and Zlatan Ibrahmovic on the pitch, one suspects that the defenders will dictate how this game turns out. While Manchester United have a reliable custodian in David de Gea and a good defence in front of him, Liverpool head into the game with a very shaky looking defence.
In this regard, the man who could win them the game is none other than their goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. The Belgian has come under a lot of fire for his high profile errors, but seems to have snatched his number one status back from Loris Karius.
Mignolet will be hit by a fusillade of shots from the Red Devils, and how he deals with them will be a decisive influence on the game.
Manchester United 2-2 Liverpool
Liverpool have been the better side throughout the course of this season, but Manchester United have recently started making up for lost time by dismantling opposition across all competitions.
The Reds have a suspect defence which is sure to be exploited by the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and co., but they have enough fire-power to strike back. A high scoring draw looks like the most probable result for this high octane encounter.