Liverpool travel to Old Trafford to arch rivals Man United on Sunday afternoon in what is still highly regarded as the top fixture in the Premier League. With much more than just bragging rights on stake, a win for either team would be huge in regards to not only the three points on the day, but improved morale and momentum going into the last few games of the season.
These fierce enemies have seen their fortunes turn somewhat this season with the current champions languishing in 6th place, 18 points behind first-place Chelsea. Liverpool however, after ending the last campaign in 7th, have exceeded expectations so far and sit in 2nd position, just seven points off with a game in hand.
Liverpool were victorious in the reverse fixture earlier in the season with Daniel Sturridge nodding in the winner within the first 5 minutes. However, Javier Hernandez helped United to a 1-0 win against The Reds in the Capital One cup match at Old Trafford.
Building up to the game, let us look at each teams statistics as well as the players that are likely to shine on the day.
United’s Defence vs. Liverpool’s Attack
De Gea has been one of United’s top players so far and has had to make a save every 31 minutes on average.
Liverpool have been scoring at will this season and have already racked up 73 goals so far, the highest in the Premier League.
With an average of a goal every 35 minutes, the Reds are scoring at a rate of just under three goals a game. Liverpool have so far had an incredible 280 shots on goal and with a shot every 7 minutes on average and a shot on target every 13.
United’s Attack vs. Liverpool’s Defence
United haven’t had the best of seasons in front of goal by their high standards but have still scored the most goals outside the top four teams. With a goal every 55 minutes, United average a shot every 9 minutes and shot on target every 15.
With Van Persie being injured for much of the season, the effect has been clear with a lack of penetrating movement synonymous with United teams of the past.
As good as Liverpool’s strike force has been this season, they have had to dig their defenders out of trouble on many an occasion so far. Individual mistakes rather than the defensive itself has led to only 8 clean sheets so far.
Having conceded 35 goals already with an average of 1.25 per game, Brendan Rodgers’ men have had to depend on outscoring teams for much of this campaign.
Wayne Rooney vs. Martin Skrtel
Wayne Rooney scored twice in a 2-0 victory in this fixture last season to take his tally against Liverpool to four. The Liverpool born Everton fan has stated this week that it’s been hard seeing Liverpool fighting for the title this season, especially with United not challenging with them. With Van Persie being injured for much of the season, it has made Rooney’s importance to the team ever more crucial with the emphasis to create and score in similar fashion to previous years. With 11 goals so far, Rooney will have been expecting to be closer to the 20 goal mark by his standards, especially being one of the main strikers in the team. He is however into double figures for assists with 10 already, the highest in the league. Creatively, Wayne Rooney has been in great form, having created 48 chances so far at a rate of one every 40 minutes.
Skrtel came into the Liverpool side for his first game of the season against Man United and had a stellar match, receiving the man of the match award. Since then he has been a main figure in Liverpool’s back four with injuries to Agger and Sakho. Although Skrtel has had some excellent matches, for example against Arsenal and Southampton, but defensive lapses have taken the gloss off of his performances. With a tackle success rate of 78.13%, as well as winning 69% of his 127 aerial duels, it shows that the Slovakian defender is not afraid of a challenge or two. Skrtel averages a clearance every 8 minutes and has 51 interceptions to his name which is some of the top stats in the league. Skrtel has been excellent against the big teams this season will hope for another commanding display at Old Trafford.
Nemanja Vidic vs. Luis Suarez
Vidic hasn’t had the best of times in this fixture, having been sent off on three occasions over the last few years. However, the experienced centre-back is one of the most talented defenders on his day and although he has signed a contract to play for Inter Milan next season, there is no doubt he will give it his all in the remaining games for a club he has one so many major honours with. Holding a tackle success rate of 79.17%, the Serbian international is yet to be dispossessed this season. With an 85% passing accuracy, Vidic will have to pick his passes carefully against a strike force that has snapped up any opportunity going their way.
Luis Suarez has been nothing short of genius in a season where he has flourished to no end. Having missed the start of the season, the Uruguayan has hit back with 24 goals with a goal every 86 minutes on average. Having scored against Southampton after a mini-drought, Suarez has also shown that when he is not scoring, he is most definitely creating, with 10 assists to his name already. Having formed a great partnership with Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, each player has been to play in manner which suits them and in turn works fantastically well for the team. Suarez and Sturridge have both scored in this fixture at Old Trafford but were on the losing side on both occasions which they will want to change this time round.
Juan Mata vs. Steven Gerrard
Having arrived at Old Trafford for a club record fee of just over £37 million, Mata has had an indifferent start to his United career. His first game started wonderful with an assist against Cardiff but since then has not made the impact that many United fans were hoping for. The situation with United out of the running for the title already certainly won’t have helped Mata but he is likely to make more of an impact next season where more arrivals will hopefully give the team a much needed lift and impetus to challenge at the top again. With a passing accuracy of 83.77%, Mata will be hoping to pull the string to unlock Liverpool’s defence, with a final 3rd passing accuracy of 84%, indicating his precision in key areas.
Gerrard has been pushed back into a more defensive role this season and has thrived after a few shaky games in that position. With long raking passes even more frequent in Gerrard’s game, it has given willing runners like Sturridge and Sterling the opportunity to burst forward on the counter to take advantage of Liverpool’s blistering pace. The England has been deadly from the spot this season with all six of his penalties hitting the back of the net. Like Mata, Gerrard will hope to pull his own strings and help record a victory which would boost any push for the title.
Let the battle commence!
Man United fans still have slight hopes that a top four finish can be achieved, but only if the likes of Liverpool slip up. A win against The Reds will be one step in the right direction but with Rodgers’s side looking for a positive result to stay on Chelsea’s heel, it’s serving up to be an enthralling encounter.