Always highly anticipated, often living up to the hype.
Last season, leading into this fixture, Liverpool were absolutely flying. The Red Devils not so much, so Jose Mourinho parked the bus (no surprise there, actually).
This season though, its a whole different story. The Media, pundits, analysts, statisticians, commentators( and the referees), all believe that this is the year that Mourinho will bring United back to the pinnacle of English Football. It would be hard to disagree on current form and their closest real title challengers this season seems to be their baby blue neighbours.
United have hit the ground running in the league and are scoring for fun. Their fans have even stopped booing Marouane Fellaini and Phil Jones is a mainstay in a defence which has been rock solid thus far. Lukaku has fitted in perfectly and grabs a goal a game. Matic the newly purchased glue keeping it all together and a brilliant acquisition to boot. The only slight that can really be thrown in their direction currently is the fact that they’ve yet to face a real test, having had a relatively easy open run. Liverpool, have played Manchester City and Arsenal already.
Mourinho knows he heads into this game with his team in better form, and will look to exploit the defensive weaknesses of Klopp’s team. This might suit Klopp as his team tend to play better against teams that come to play attacking football.
Jose will be silently hoping his team will continue from where they left off before the international break, Jurgen on the other hand will be praying that his players left their wretched form away on country duty.
The worst of news greeted Liverpool fans on Tuesday afternoon – Sadio Mane had been injured on international duty and is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Undoubtedly, he would’ve been the key to the Reds attack. Klopp will have to shift things again but should be able to cope. It offers the chance for Oxlade Chamberlain to prove he isnt a flop/panic buy. Having not had the best of “settling in” periods thus far, all of that negativity can be erased with a heroic performance on Saturday.
One man who has settled in brilliantly to life in Merseyside is newly crowned King of Egypt, Mohamed Salah. He’s been banging in the goals (albeit missing quite a few too it must be said).
Helping his country qualify for the World Cup in Russia Next year will no doubt see him entering the clash in a positive frame of mind. Emre Can is another who will be looking to use good performances for his country to lift his game for Liverpool. He hasn’t been in the best of form this season, and with prolonged contract negotiations seemingly not bearing fruition, that thumper of a goal for Germany will no doubt lift his spirits. Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson, his central midfield partners need to step up too. This is a match where passengers will be exposed, and they haven’t covered themselves in any glory this tenure. Phil Coutinho and Roberto Firmino remain a concern heading into this game. Both players arrive fairly late on Thursday leaving little time for recuperation and adapting to Klopp’s game plan. But they are quality and will probably play a big part in the outcome of the match.
Such has been United’s form that even players on the periphery have shown top quality when given the opportunity. Anthony Martial, often deemed to not be in Mourinho’s good books, has been consistently good. Marcus Rashford’s star continues to shine. Fellaini, much maligned and seen as the Jordan Henderson of United (dividing opinion amongst the fanbase) has single handedly won games for the Devils. Ashley Young has traded in his diving boots and now wears the one’s from his Aston Villa days – The one’s that allow him to whip in devilish crosses [allowing Lukaku to score with ease].
Jurgen Klopp will do well to motivate his almost non existent defense to improve drastically come Saturday. Sadly for him, It’s no longer a question IF they will concede, but rather WHEN.
Operation Score-more-than-you-concede is on the cards. A cracker of a game, a messy game of chess, a bruising battle. It’s going to be epic.
Heck, it always is.
Who will be the hero on Saturday ?