Liverpool v Manchester United | Sunday 17 January | Anfield | 16:05
This, being traditionally the biggest game in English football, has taken on a different significance in recent years, with both sides going through a drastic period of readjustment. Louis Van Gaal’s side at least defied the odds and played an exciting brand of football on Tuesday night. Liverpool were typically Klopp- pressing the ball successfully and proving dangerous without either Coutinho and Benteke. Benteke came on in the second half to great effect, showing that Liverpool can play in a multitude of ways.
This is a game that could come to define the seasons and tenures of the relative managers in what is fast becoming a season of significant tumult. It is also a game, that will never battle for relevance, but there’s a strong possibility that neither one of these sides will qualify for the Champions League this year. Times they are a changing.
To Win (90 Mins)
Manchester United 9/4
Jurgen Klopp has had to adapt quickly to the vagaries of the Premier League, learning that the high pressing game can sometimes prove fatal against cunning counterattacking sides. United showed some counterattacking skills on Tuesday, surrendering the lion’s share of possession for once and creating space to attack. But the current Newcastle side and current Liverpool side are completely different beasts. The amount of pace in the Liverpool side caused Arsenal huge problems, despite the slightly laboured presence of Sakho and Toure. Moreno and Clyne were always hugging the touchlines, which could prove vital against a United back-line searching for their own cohesion.
Roberto Firmino’s electric performance will have given much food for thought to Klopp.
United are fragile in the defensive midfield position, and Firmino’s ability to drift into pockets of space could be decisive. I think that Klopp may opt to play Firmino in behind Benteke, with Benteke’s presence potentially more disruptive against a United side devoid of confidence. I think that Emre Can could prove immense in this fixture, with United’s midfield being completely overrun by a frankly average Newcastle side in midweek. Schiederlin and Herrera were truly nowhere, and I think this is where Liverpool could use that high pressing game to great effect.
Louis Van Gaal has had the gauntlet laid before him. He is in a results business, but the 3-3 draw that his side achieved the other night perhaps endeared him more to the fans than any dreary three points could. Does he try and run with it, knowing that United probably should have won the other night? Or could it strengthen his resolve and make him revert back to death by possession. I feel that the performance of Liverpool on Wednesday night may force him to adopt a more cautious approach. I think that Liverpool’s pace and pressing game could prove dangerous to Van Gaal should he opt to surrender more space.
I’m almost certain that Fellaini will not be chosen following a stagnant performance. Juan Mata may come into the side playing just behind Rooney, forcing Herrera into a more defensive role. His vision has outdone Liverpool before and he could be the architect of Liverpool’s demise. I feel that Anthony Martial may be rested for the weekend. The young man looked rather jaded on Tuesday, while Depay looked energetic when brought into the fray. Rooney will look to exploit the lack of pace at the heart of the current Liverpool defensive line-up, as United will attempt to continue a good recent run of form against their arch-rivals.
I just can’t see the United midfield able to cope with the athleticism of that Liverpool side. Can actually has an impact on games, whereas Scheniderlin floats through games with little or no impact. The pace of Moreno and Clyne will also prove difficult for United’s potential make-shift full-backs to deal with. Young is not the greatest defender while Blind’s pace is a concern.
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