It’s the big one. Very rarely have we seen the two powerhouses of English football in fine fettle at the same period and this meeting at Old Trafford may be one of those select few times we will bear witness to that.
Manchester United are simply on a sensational run. Nine wins on the spin and fifteen games unbeaten, Mourinho has finally found the right balance and ingredients for success at his new club. They go into this game on the back of two victories in the cup competitions without conceding a goal in neither. The form of United could not be better ahead of a crunch fixture against their biggest rivals and only time will tell if they could make it ten wins in succession come Sunday which would put them right back in the title race.
Although Liverpool will make the short trip to Old Trafford following a grim first leg loss in the first leg of the league cup semi-final, they are where they are because they deserve to be. Liverpool are the league’s highest scorers, but this will be Jurgen Klopp’s biggest test yet, going to Old Trafford with the ambition to continue their brilliant record against fellow top six sides in the league (Liverpool have won the highest number of points in the mini league with the top 6), all the more so when they are on a bit of a wobble themselves and also missing their top scorer Sadio Mane. A win for Liverpool will be a massive statement from the German and could reduce their gap to leaders Chelsea to two points.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic should be available after illness forced him to miss the EFL Cup semi-final on Tuesday. United will still be without Eric Bailly, who’s about to start the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast and there are question marks surrounding Marcos Rojo’s fitness. The Argentinian defender was rested for the Hull game to recover from a muscular problem, but he’s still a doubt ahead of Sunday’s clash.
Klopp will have to cope with the absence of top scorer Saido Mane, who is currently on international duty representing Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations. However, Philippe Coutinho could start for the first time since 26 November, after the Brazilian playmaker returned to action as a substitute at Southampton on Wednesday night. Joel Matip and Jordan Henderson didn’t travel to the South Coast but only the latter, Liverpool’s captain, is likely to play against United on Sunday.
- This will be the 50th Premier League meeting between Manchester United and Liverpool – United have won 27 of the previous 49 (D9 L13).
- Jurgen Klopp has lost just one of his six meetings with Jose Mourinho (W3 D2 L1), with that defeat coming in 2013 via a 2-0 away loss for Dortmund v Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final second leg.
- This clash has seen 16 red cards shown in the Premier League – only Everton v Liverpool (21) has produced more dismissals.
- Liverpool have lost more Premier League matches (27) and also the most overall league matches (67) against Manchester United than versus any other opponent.
Key Men Comparison
Antonio Valencia v James Milner
There’s plenty of mini battles in this game that would play an integral role in deciding the outcome. Not just on the pitch but this could be another chance for Jose Mourinho or Jurgen Klopp to get one over the another. But the most important clash will be concentrated on one flank – Manchester United’s right versus Liverpool’s left.
Both Valencia and Milner are similar in many ways – they are both not natural full-backs, they are quick, and their work ethic is second to none. Also they often initiate an attacking move by either running with the ball with pace or by stretching the opposition defence staying high and wide which is why an awful lot will be riding on this individual battle.
This surely cannot be more boring than the previous meeting at Anfield given the stakes involved but I don’t expect many goals in this one. United look like they may take some stopping and do go into this one as slight favorites as Liverpool will have done very well to get something out of this fixture.
Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool