A place on the summit of the Premier League will be on the line when Liverpool welcome rivals Manchester United to Old Trafford on Sunday.
The 2020/21 Premier League reaches its halfway mark with the latest round of fixtures, with Gameweek 19 currently underway. The pick of the games in the latest matchday will be played at Anfield on Sunday, when Liverpool play hosts to Manchester United, with top spot in the standings up for grabs.
Liverpool have been the pace setters in the Premier League for well over a year, having been by far the best side in the competition since the 2018/19 season. However, the Reds have been thrown off their perch this week by their familiar rivals, having been in a precarious position since losing 1-0 to Southampton in their most recent Premier League game.
The aforementioned familiar rivals are none other than Manchester United, who have been in quite a resurgent mood this term under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Since suffering the 6-1 hammering at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur early in the campaign, the Red Devils have the best record in the top-flight and their 1-0 win over Burnley this week saw them reach the summit of the Premier League.
The corresponding fixture last season ended in a 2-0 win for Liverpool, a result that sparked the fine unbeaten run on the road that Manchester United are currently on in the Premier League. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Jurgen Klopp does not have any fresh injury concern hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Manchester United. On Sunday, the Liverpool manager will certainly be bereft of the services of five first-team players while also fretting over the availability of a key member of his squad.
The player in question, of course, is Joel Matip, who has been struggling with a calf injury for a few weeks now, having now missed each of Liverpool’s last three games. Klopp, though, has suggested that he will take a late call over whether he makes the starting lineup. The likes of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Kostas Tsimikas, Naby Keita and Diogo Jota.
Considering the magnitude of the match, it is likely that Matip will be included in the lineup, with Fabinho being his partner at the heart of the Manchester United defence. If not, Nat Phillips should get the nod in the central defensive partnership.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson will be the full-back pairing for Liverpool, with the duo holding the key in creating the bulk of the openings against Manchester United, who have been highly vulnerable in aerial situations this term. In goal, there is no looking past Alisson Becker.
Up ahead in midfield, Thiago Alcantara, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum pick themselves in the three-man unit. Henderson will be stationed at the base, from where he will look to initiate swift moves with his first-touch passing while also aiming to keep a check on Bruno Fernandes.
Thiago and Wijnaldum will provide defensive support to the Liverpool captain, with the former also in-charge of providing the forward thrust from the middle of the park. Finally, in attack, there is no looking past Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. Firmino will aim to create space with his movement off the ball while Mane and Salah will veer infield to look for scoring chances.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Thiago, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
The 1-0 win over Burnley did push Manchester United to the top of the Premier League table. But, it came at a cost as Anthony Martial sustained a hamstring injury, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sweating over his fitness ahead of the trip to Anfield to take on Liverpool.
With the nature of injury being quite delicate, it is likely that Solskjaer will utilise Martial as an impact substitute, so as to preserve him while also keeping a game-changing option on the bench. The Manchester United manager, though, will have to make do without Brandon Williams, who is struggling to overcome a knock.
Victor Lindelof, though, should be available after recovering from the back complaint that has been bothering him all season. However, the Swede will have to suffice with a place on the bench, with Eric Bailly nailing down his place at the heart of the Manchester United defence alongside Harry Maguire after a few excellent performances.
Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be the two full-backs for Manchester United. However, unlike their counterparts at Liverpool, the duo will primarily have a defensive outlook, although Shaw will carry some threat going down the left flank, and with his deliveries from corners. In goal, David de Gea is a certainty ahead of Dean Henderson.
Martial’s niggling issue provides Solskjaer with a chance to make use of a tactic he has employed a few times this term, with Paul Pogba set to be deployed on the left flank. The Frenchman will look to tuck in and link-up with Bruno Fernandes in the central areas, while creating overloads in the middle of the park during the defensive phases.
Fred and Scott McTominay will likely form the double pivot in midfield for Manchester United, with the pair’s presence in the middle of the park providing the visitors with the kind of solidity needed to cut the Liverpool attack from its midfield. Upfront, Edinson Cavani should lead the line for Manchester United, while Marcus Rashford will be stationed on the right wing.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, McTominay; Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Pogba; Cavani
1. Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.66
1. Full-Time Result – Draw @ 3.80
- Liverpool have won their last two Premier League games at home against Manchester United, last managing to win three on the trot back in March 2011. In fact, the Red Devils are winless in their last four league games versus Liverpool (D2 L2), their worst run without a win against their arch-rivals since a streak of five between March 2000 and January 2002.
- Liverpool are winless in three Premier League games (D2 L1), failing to score in their last two. They last went four matches without a win in February 2017 (a run of five), while they have not failed to score in three consecutive league games since March 2005.
- Liverpool lost their first league game of 2021 but have not started a calendar year with successive defeats in the top-flight since 1993. However, the Reds are unbeaten in 67 home games in the Premier League (W55 D12), finding the net in each of their last 42 at Anfield.
- Manchester United have won none of their three Premier League games versus Liverpool with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as their manager (D2 L1) – the only two Red Devils managers to fail to win their first four league games against Liverpool are John Chapman (1921-26) and Tommy Docherty (1973-76).
- Marcus Rashford has scored three goals in his last four Premier League games against Liverpool, with these goals being worth four points to Manchester United. Only Wayne Rooney (6), Andy Cole (4) and Ryan Giggs (4) have scored more Premier League goals against Liverpool for the Red Devils.
Player to Watch
In a potentially high-octane game that will be laden with superstars, it is hard to pick out one player worth keeping an eye on. But, while the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford have all been making a great deal of difference for Manchester United, Mohamed Salah has gone cold in Liverpool colours of late.
So, it does not really come as a surprise that Liverpool have failed to win each of their last three Premier League games, seeing as his output holds the key for the Reds. Hence, it goes without saying what Salah does will go a long way in determining the final outcome of the game.
If Salah becomes anonymous again, Manchester United could well be the team to end Liverpool’s unbeaten home run in the Premier League. That could, in turn, leave the Reds a fair bit behind their bitter rivals, paving the way for an uphill task for the title race.
Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United
Going by the two teams’ recent form, Manchester United seem to have the slightest of edges in the game that will invariably be one of the turning points in the title race. However, two factors will be going against the Red Devils on Sunday, despite their much superior form in the top-flight.
For one, Liverpool seem to always put form on the back-burner when it comes to big games in the Premier League at Anfield. Secondly, Manchester United no longer seem to be the tactically astute side that have the number of fellow big-name clubs in marquee fixtures, as illustrated by their poor performances in every game of this sort this term.
Sunday could well be a case of the same yet again, with Liverpool managing to turn their fortunes around. The game, though, should be closely contested, with Manchester United taking it right till the final whistle. With all that being said, the Reds should manage to eke out a narrow 2-1 win to reclaim top spot in the Premier League.