Manchester United face the biggest test of their Premier League title credentials when they visit Anfield to face Liverpool on Saturday
Premier League moves into Gameweek 8 this weekend upon the culmination of the international break. The marquee clash this week will see Liverpool and Manchester United renew their fierce rivalry when Jose Mourinho takes his high-flying side to Anfield on Saturday.
The hosts have gone off to a stuttering start to their 2017-18 Premier League campaign, following a disastrous month of footballing action prior to the international break. With just one win in their last four games, the Reds are seventh in the table, already seven points behind their visitors on Saturday.
Manchester United, on the other hand, are yet to lose a single game this season, and have dropped points in just one game. Having started the season in commanding fashion, the Red Devils are currently joint leaders in the Premier League, separated only by a single goal from Manchester City.
The corresponding fixture last season ended in a closely contested 0-0 draw, with David De Gea being the saviour for Mourinho’s side. Ahead of their latest meeting on Saturday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
The international break hasn’t treated Liverpool well, with Sadio Mane the major casualty for the Reds. The Senegalese winger picked up a hamstring injury on duty with his national side against Cape Verde.
The earliest reports suggest that Mane will miss the next six weeks of action, handing Jurgen Klopp a major blow at a time when his side is struggling a lot. Apart from Mane, long-term absentees Nathaniel Clyne (back) and Adam Lallana are the only other plays unavailable for the weekend.
Meanwhile, Klopp would likely be sweating over the availability of Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Georginio Wijnaldum after returning late from their respective international duties. In fact, Coutinho and Wijnaldum trained away from the rest of the squad.
While Klopp would be hoping for the trio to be fit and firing for the visit of Manchester United, although this could also finally be the opportunity that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been waiting for as he could get his first Premier League start on Saturday.
At the back, Dejan Lovren is expected to start despite recently admitting that he has been taking painkillers before every match to deal with his back injury. The major selection headache that Klopp faces is on the right side of defence, where Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez will be hoping to get another chance to impress.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Can, Henderson, Coutinho; Salah, Firmino, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Like his counterpart, Jose Mourinho, too, would not have been left impressed following some of the implications of the international break either. The Manchester United boss has his midfield down to its bare bones, with just two recognised options left at his disposal.
Marouane Fellaini is the latest player on the treatment table after sustaining a knee injury while on duty with Belgium. He has joined Paul Pogba (hamstring) and Michael Carrick (calf) on the sidelines, although the Frenchman has stepped up recovery and is likely to be available earlier than anticipated.
Also stepping up his recovery, is Zlatan Ibrahimovic who is planning to be available for selection by December, a month ahead of schedule. For now though, the Swedish striker and Marcos Rojo continue recovering from their respective long-term knee injuries.
Fortunately for Mourinho though, Romelu Lukaku has come away from the international break unscathed and is expected to start on Saturday. Also likely to be fit and available is Phil Jones, who missed England duty due to a knee complaint. He is expected to be joined by Eric Bailly at the heart of the Manchester United defence.
A key change for Mourinho, meanwhile, could be Jesse Lingard, whose work rate and tireless running could help negate the threat posed by a hard pressing Liverpool side. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial are expected to continue their alternation at the left side of the Manchester United attack.
Possible Starting XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Young; Herrera, Matic; Lingard, Mkhitaryan, Rashford; Lukaku
- Liverpool have not won any of their last six Premier League games against Manchester United (D2 L4).
- Indeed, Jurgen Klopp, too, is yet to win a game against Manchester United in the Premier League in three attempts (D2 L1).
- However, the Liverpool boss has a strong record against his counterpart, having lost just one of his seven competitive meetings with Jose Mourinho (W3 D3).
- Manchester United have won three of their last five Premier League games at Anfield (D1 L1).
- Since Jose Mourinho took charge of Manchester United, the two clubs have managed to rack up the same number of points in the Premier League (88).
1. Manchester United Asian Handicap 0.0 @1.970
2. Romelu Lukaku to score anytime @2.05
3. Under 5.5 Cards @1.80
1. Manchester United Clean Sheet – YES @3.50
Player To Watch
It has been a rather slow start to the 2017-18 campaign for Manchester United’s Player of the Year last season. Ander Herrera, who had managed to establish himself as one of the first names on Jose Mourinho’s team sheet has lost his place as a regular since the arrival of Nemanja Matic.
But, with Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick sidelined for the next few weeks, Herrera has the opportunity to make a case for more regular inclusion if he is able to rediscover his best touch.
As far as Saturday’s game is concerned, a repeat performance from the corresponding fixture last season would go a long way in ensuring a positive result for Manchester United as the Spaniard will likely have the responsibility of close down the spaces that Philippe Coutinho could exploit.
Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United
Club football returns with a bang in the Premier League on Saturday, with Manchester United travelling to Anfield to take on Liverpool. And like previous seasons, this tie could turn out to be another spectacle, despite the unfortunate absences of some big name players.
Such games are the kind that Jurgen Klopp and his sides revel in, and despite their misgivings since the start of September, they are likely to run Manchester United close. However, the absence of Mane for the Reds, and the presence of Romelu Lukaku for the visitors is likely to be the difference in the end.
Considering how vulnerable look that the Liverpool defence usually sports, it will also not be surprising to see either Anthony Martial grab a late winner for his side by using his pace and trickery to good effect. The Hard Tackle predicts a hard fought 2-1 win for Jose Mourinho & co. to continue their unbeaten start.