The big night draws ever closer.
Battle lines have been drawn. The two most successful teams in English football clash on Monday Night… And what a clash it will be.
Both teams have undergone changes in personnel in some form or the other, but the tension and rivalry remains the same. Nay, it actually gets more intense with each year that passes!
These are some of the duels we are likely to see in this, the most watched/spoken/fought about football match in the world.
Milner vs Rashford
Since James Milner has taken up the left-back position, former players, analysts, and critics have been saying that he will soon be exposed. Thus far, they’ve all been wrong. The teen sensation poses the biggest test for the utility man this season, and Rashford will be hoping his pace will give him the edge in this crucial battle. Milner is an experienced campaigner and he will need every ounce of all his gathered knowledge to keep the youngster at bay.
Matip vs Ibrahimovich
Clash of the Giants in this one. Ibrahimovich, for such a big guy can pull out the spectacular if need be, and is deadly in the air. Matip is cool,calm and streetwise. His reading of the game is a big plus for Liverpool. These two will be at it for every minute of the 95 minute spectacle. (Of course there will be Fergie time, that’s a given.)
Mane vs Blind
Sadio has vision for a pass and an eye for goal, but Danny can employ the blind pass at will. (I’m here all week.) Just as Milner vs Rashford seems a foregone conclusion in the speed department, at the other end of the field, Sadio Mane’s blistering pace will test the Dutchman’s guile and ability to put the brakes on. Blind’s mistakes have cost United on occasion this season, and he will be hoping to see this one out without any hiccups.
Firmino vs Bailly
The Brazilian has been a constant performer for Liverpool and seems to always shine brightest against the bigger clubs. Bailly has been a rock at the back for United at times and will have to be at his best to keep Firmino quiet.
The Brazilian has settled nicely at Liverpool and the home advantage tends to get him into party mood. Expecting tricks galore from Firmino and quite a few “Letting-him-know-I’m-here” tackles from Bailly.
Klopp vs Mourinho
The Normal One vs The Special One is the latest spin-off series from the original blockbuster.
Klopp the eternal optimist, Mourinho the Kop antagonist in chief. He will be warmly welcomed… well, if boos were considered a warm welcome. The Anfield faithful will remember him running down the touchline celebrating Demba Ba’s goal, and have read about his wish to have gotten the Liverpool job after Houllier. Rafa Benitez ended up getting it, and his love hate (mostly hate) relationship with Liverpool began then.
Klopp’s philosophy is all about emotional, fast paced football. Mourinho’s on the other hand is all about soaking up pressure, sitting deep, hitting on the counter.
There will be a word or five on the touchline between the two, you can rest assured of that.
Carra vs Neville
Monday Night Football will have some bite in the studio as well with Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville doing prematch, half-time, and post match analysis. The two former players were at the centre of this fiery matchup on the pitch, and now the loyalty banter has morphed from shinguards to sharp suits.
Goals scored Goals Conceded
Liverpool :18 Liverpool : 10
Man United: 13 Man United: 8
Both teams are exceptionally leaky at the back meaning a high scoring encounter is a more than likely possibility. It’s building up at break neck speed, global anticipation near tangible. Wrecked nerves everywhere, and a ball hasn’t even been kicked yet.
A win for Klopp and the “title challengers” murmurs will grow louder, a loss at home and the “too inconsistent” jibes will resurface. A win for Mourinho would inject new life into a an expensively assembled team bereft of full self belief, a loss and the “Special Once” quips will once again be thrown about. The Pressure is well and truly on.
The World is ready. Let’s hope the players are up for the challenge.