Story of the tape, tactical battle, predictions


The rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United has been quiet lately as a result of dominance of Jurgen Klopp’s facet, however United are again to their finest this season and are prime of the Premier League, looking their first title since 2013 and searching well-placed to do it. Not solely that, but when Man United win, they might do one thing that appeared inconceivable not that way back: go six factors clear on the prime of the desk over the defending champions Liverpool and 7 factors above the earlier title-winners, Manchester Metropolis

Oh, and if Sunday’s league recreation wasn’t sufficient, Man United host Liverpool every week later, on Jan. 24, within the FA Cup fourth spherical. (Stream LIVE on ESPN+, U.S. solely).

– Scholes: How Man United can move Liverpool take a look at
– Connelly: Premier League switch targets on a funds
– Marcotti: Why it is a massive deal Man United are prime

Nonetheless, all roads to glory run by way of a visit to Anfield, the place Liverpool have not misplaced a league recreation since Could 2017 — a run of 67 matches with out defeat. (Sunday additionally marks 4 years to the day since Man United final received there.) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s nonetheless searching for his first win over Liverpool, having drawn twice and misplaced twice in 4 makes an attempt. Will Sunday’s conflict of second vs. first within the Premier League be the tip of each streaks?

ESPN’s reporters put together you for the sport of the weekend. This is what you’ll want to know.

Leap to: Story of Tape | Tactical battle | Predictions

Story of the Tape: Who has the sting?

Goalkeeper

Alisson is among the prime goalkeepers on the planet at current (ranked No. 2 in 2020’s FC 100), however will not be helped at Liverpool by the ever-changing again line in entrance of him. The Brazilian sits alongside fellow countryman Ederson because the Premier League’s most interesting stoppers, and he is conceded simply two objectives in his final 4 video games — Liverpool’s struggles have been on the different finish on the subject.

Over at United, David de Gea‘s type has stabilised after his early season jitters. He saved a clear sheet at Burnley final day out, and held off a late Aston Villa surge for United’s key 2-1 win on New Yr’s Day.

Edge: Liverpool. In the meanwhile, Alisson is the stronger goalkeeper however neither are in peak type.

Defence

Liverpool’s backline is shaky. With out the injured duo Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, Liverpool have coped admirably on the again, with fringe gamers filling in, midfielders slotting in out of place and youth gamers studying on the job within the top-flight forward of schedule. However Joel Matip stays an harm doubt for Sunday’s prime of the desk recreation and missed group coaching on Wednesday; if he is unavailable, Liverpool will possible subject a again 4 with a pair of midfielders taking part in at center-back as a substitute.

Jordan Henderson and Fabinho have stuffed in there earlier than, together with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson at fullback, however that leaves Liverpool brief additional up the sphere — it is merely fixing one downside by creating one other. Matip’s health is essential for Liverpool right here, however Jurgen Klopp might but give Nate Phillips or Rhys Williams an opportunity to impress.

United’s again 4 is a bit more settled. Eric Bailly has been in very good type since he returned to the primary staff, and he is working properly in tandem alongside captain Harry Maguire. Victor Lindelof is battling a again downside, so Bailly is prone to begin whereas Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw will begin at full-back.

Edge: Manchester United. With Liverpool’s accidents, United supply a extra settled outlook on the again.

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1:21

ESPN FC’s Shaka Hislop is surprised by what Mark Clattenburg admitted to with reference to his decision-making on the pitch.

Midfield

Liverpool’s midfield line-up relies on who fills in on the again, however they nonetheless have a number of thrilling choices with Thiago, James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henderson and Curtis Jones all accessible. Naby Keita was additionally absent from coaching earlier within the week: if Henderson strains up alongside Fabinho in defence, count on Liverpool to go together with Milner, Thiago and Wijnaldum as their center three.

United are monitoring Nemanja Matic‘s health after he was pressured off late in United’s 1-0 win at Burnley, however they’ve Fred, Scott McTominay and a rejuvenated Paul Pogba all match. These three might begin at Anfield regardless of Solskjaer preferring to play two central midfielders. With doubts over Martial’s health, he might push Pogba additional ahead, which labored so properly in opposition to Burnley earlier within the week: Pogba scored the winner on Tuesday and put in his most interesting efficiency for United this season.

Edge. Liverpool… simply.

Forwards

Liverpool’s entrance three are nonetheless the most effective within the Premier League with Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino the trio who fired them to the title final season. They clicked superbly of their 7-0 demolition of Crystal Palace on Dec. 19, however Liverpool have scored only one of their final three league video games, which got here Mane scored of their 1-1 draw at house in opposition to West Brom on Dec. 27. Firmino scored twice in opposition to Palace, however has simply 5 in 17 video games this season and three assists so there’s a concern.

Off the bench they will look to Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri for influence, with Diogo Jota out injured.

United have been grinding out one-goal wins to get to the highest of the desk and are sweating on the health of Anthony Martial after he limped off in opposition to Burnley. Marcus Rashford stays a risk off the flank, whereas Edison Cavani has slotted into life properly at United too. But their important man continues to be Bruno Fernandes. He scored the winner in opposition to Aston Villa in that key 2-1 win on New Yr’s Day and sits sixth within the league on xG with 9.18 and second on xA with 4.46.

Edge: Liverpool. The Reds are nonetheless prime of the league in xG (anticipated Objectives, which measures the standard of scoring possibilities) and xA (anticipated Assists, which is the probability {that a} move will turn out to be an help) and have a extra settled, deadly entrance three, although Fernandes has remodeled United’s assault within the 12 months he is been at Previous Trafford and can trigger Liverpool’s defence issues.

Supervisor

Jurgen Klopp has received a Champions League and Premier League within the final two seasons, whereas Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is but to win a chunk of silverware at United. However Solskjaer has confounded the naysayers by main United to the highest of the league for the primary time this late within the season since Sir Alex Ferguson was in cost. United’s coach is but to file a win over Klopp with two attracts and two defeats to his title so has all of it to do if he’s to information his United facet to a key win on Sunday.

Edge: Liverpool — Tom Hamilton

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Tactical battle

Manchester United and Solskjaer would most likely take a degree on Sunday given their place within the desk, however there’s additionally a possibility to win at Anfield for the primary time since 2016. United have not misplaced away from house within the Premier League since their final journey to Anfield virtually a 12 months in the past and forward of the weekend, Klopp has bought choice issues to unravel.

With out Van Dijk, Gomez and probably Matip, Klopp may very well be pressured into taking part in midfielders Fabinho and Henderson within the centre of his defence. And with out two gamers usually assured to start out a giant recreation in midfield, that space of Klopp’s staff may even want reshuffled.

Even along with his staff flying over the previous two years, Klopp has appeared fairly cautious when going head-to-head with Solskjaer’s United. There have been events when United have appeared destined for a humiliating defeat, just for the sport to be tight and attritional. Klopp, like Pep Guardiola in December, will probably be involved about United’s skill to counter-attack shortly, and it could imply they stand off greater than they might in another fixture.

Solskjaer has picked a five-man defence in his final two conferences with Liverpool, and he might accomplish that once more. He has the personnel to do it with Maguire, Lindelof, Bailly, Axel Tuanzebe and even Shaw accessible to fill the three roles within the centre of defence; Shaw, Wan-Bissaka and Alex Telles are all able to taking part in as wing-backs.

Solskjaer will know all about the specter of Liverpool’s entrance three, however he may even be cautious of full-backs Robertson and Alexander-Arnold working previous his broad males and discovering house to get ahead. Nonetheless, one draw back to Henderson getting used as a makeshift centre-back is that he can not help the full-backs assault as a lot as they want as a result of he is not in midfield to cowl the house behind.

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1:30

Craig Burley says Manchester United have stunned him to date, however would not see them as title favourites.

Solskjaer, in the meantime, should be careful for Alexander-Arnold swinging early crosses in direction of Wan-Bissaka as a result of he would not at all times defend his again put up in addition to he might. Trent-Alexander’s supply in these conditions is pinpoint and Wan-Bissaka should watch out he would not swap off and lose runners trying to exploit the house behind him.

Regardless of their harm issues, Liverpool have loads of causes to be assured, significantly as a result of Salah, Mane and Firmino are match and since they only do not lose league video games at Anfield anymore. United, although, have made lots of progress since their 2-0 defeat there in February 2020 and it says every part that of the starters that day, solely six are assured to start out once more on Sunday.

Liverpool vs. Manchester United within the Klopp/Solskjaer period has usually appeared like a recreation no one needs to lose, slightly than one they’re determined to win. Neither supervisor will say it within the build-up, however given Liverpool’s accidents and United’s latest file at Anfield, a draw could swimsuit everybody.

Predictions

Liverpool 2, Manchester United 2. Fingers crossed for an motion packed, flowing recreation, however these ones are often cagey affairs. Anticipate Liverpool to have the majority of possession, however United to hit them on the counterattack and get a priceless level at Anfield.— Tom Hamilton

Liverpool 1, Manchester United 1. One other tight recreation that no one needs to lose. — Rob Dawson

Liverpool 1, Manchester United 2. Liverpool’s 67-game unbeaten run at Anfield within the Premier League should finish someday, and United journey there on Sunday in type and stuffed with confidence. With key defenders lacking, Liverpool will discover it robust to comprise United’s attacking gamers, so stand by because the league leaders get a giant win. — Mark Ogden

Liverpool 1, Manchester United 1. Liverpool are the higher facet, however United are in higher type. The factors will probably be shared. — James Olley

Liverpool 1, Manchester United 0. Man United are in good type, however Liverpool’s further days off since their final recreation (every week in the past vs. Aston Villa within the FA Cup) must be the distinction. — Gab Marcotti

Liverpool 2, Manchester United 1. In some unspecified time in the future within the close to or distant future, United will lose a detailed recreation once more. May as properly be at Anfield in opposition to a staff that is had a while to stew over its disappointing Festive Interval outcomes (and already took out some frustration on Villa). — Invoice Connelly



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