Our footy writer previews Monday night's epic contest between rivals Liverpool and Manchester United.
Liverpool and Manchester United will lock horns at the newly revamped Anfield stadium on Monday in one of the most eagerly-anticipated clashes of the season. Whenever these teams meet, there’s always going to be high energy and rising emotion.
It is a fixture as intense as any of the game's big rivalries and Anfield is always at its most ferocious when United come to town. The Red Devils have won the last four Premier League matches against Liverpool, but Klopp’s side knocked them out of the Europa League in their last meeting.
United have the stars, but Liverpool are blazing like the sun. Just who will come out on top in Monday’s mouth-watering clash?
Liverpool v Manchester United | Monday 17 October | Anfield | 21:00
To Win (90 Mins)
Liverpool 21/20 | Draw 5/2 | Manchester United 5/2
Liverpool are hitting their stride this season with manager Jurgen Klopp hinting that he is targeting the Premier League title, which has eluded the Merseyside club for so long. The Reds have appeared to have shaken off the disappointment of last season and put themselves in a position to challenge. They have even been installed as second favourites behind Manchester City for the title after a hugely promising start to the campaign.
Klopp’s side currently sit fourth on the Premier League table having taken 16 points from a possible 21 so far – their only blot on their record was against Burnley – and they come into this clash on a five-match winning streak, across all competitions. They have already beaten the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester City, while earning a 1-1 draw away to Tottenham back in August. Liverpool have done well against the top clubs this season and they’ll fancy their chances of taking maximum points against bitter rivals Manchester United.
In seven matches, Liverpool have scored 18 goals, making them the joint-most prolific side in the Premier League alongside Manchester City. Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, James Milner, Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane have each scored at least three Premier League goals already. All are in outstanding form.
However, Klopp is sweating over the fitness of Lallana ahead of the visit of United. The former Southampton midfielder suffered a groin injury in Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Swansea last time out, which forced him to withdraw from England's World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovenia. Lallana, who has been nominated for the Premier League's Player of the Month award for September, is said to have undergone intensive treatment on his injury at Melwood, and Liverpool have not yet ruled him out of the clash.
If he were to miss out, Daniel Sturridge is likely to come back into the starting XI and could form the front three along with Mane and Firmino, while Coutinho could drop into the more central role that Lallana has occupied since the start of the season. Liverpool expect Nathaniel Clyne and Dejan Lovren to be passed fit to face United. Lovren and Clyne along with Joel Matip and Milner have formed a consistent backline for Klopp and he will be keen to have all of them fit and available for their biggest game of the season yet.
After seven games, Jose Mourinho's side have racked up 13 points. United are now three points and five places worse off than they were at this stage last season under Louis van Gaal. There were high hopes for United after they spent £149 million on new players, including a world-record £89 million on midfielder Paul Pogba, but their shopping spree hasn't had the desired effect. The Red Devils started the season superbly, winning their opening three matches after their Community Shield triumph over Leicester City at Wembley. But since then, they went through a bad patch where they suffered three straight defeats across all competitions. Mourinho's side did bounce back with an emphatic 4-1 thrashing of champions Leicester City, but their 1-1 draw at home to a struggling Stoke side has raised concerns yet again.
However, United are a work in progress and Mourinho is the best man to turn things around at Old Trafford. Victory over an in-form Liverpool side will be a good indication that United are moving in the right direction. The Reds of Manchester are enjoying an unprecedented period of dominance over rivals Liverpool in the league, having won the last four meetings, scoring nine goals while conceding just twice. This will be Mourinho’s first game as United boss against Liverpool and he won’t want to lose.
Mourinho will rely on star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to rattle Liverpool’s shaky defence. The centre-forward has made a positive start, scoring six goals in 11 games, although Stoke was the third consecutive league match in which he’s failed to find the net. Zlatan is a man for the big occasion though and he’ll be looking to fire his side to victory.
Pogba has made a slow start since returning to Old Trafford, with just one goal in eight games. The Frenchman was at his best for the national team, scoring a brilliant long-range strike to hand France a 1-0 win away to Netherlands. United need Pogba at his best against Liverpool to run the show in midfield and create goal-scoring opportunities.
Captain Wayne Rooney – once the first name on the team sheet – is out of favour for club and country and is likely to be named among the substitutes. He still has a lot to offer and it would do United some good if he can rediscover his goal-scoring form that lauded him as one of the best strikers in the world.
Verdict: Liverpool Win + BTTS 2/1
Liverpool have been scoring goals at will, however, they are yet to keep a clean sheet in the league this season which is a worry for Klopp. United have certainly got goals in them and I think both teams will find the net. That being said, Liverpool have beaten every big team they’ve faced this season and with home advantage, should claim maximum points. Take Liverpool to Win + Both Teams To Score at 2/1.
Written by Chadley Nagel @Hollywoodbets