Two of England’s biggest heavyweights take to the ring this Sunday, both in heavyweight form as Liverpool and Manchester United challenge strongly to separate themselves as contenders from the pretenders.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
Jurgen Klopp’s men come into this tie with the best home form in the division, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red Devils have the best away record in the top flight. But can Solskjaer do what no club has managed to do since April 2017 and beat Liverpool at Anfield? The Norwegian boss has managed some unthinkable results in his tenure at United, but winning Sunday’s showdown would certainly top the charts, while it would also be a massive statement to the rest of the league.
This preview was compiled before the midweek fixtures took place.
English Premier League | Sunday 17 January | Anfield | 18:30
To Win Match
Manchester United 26/10
At the start of the week, before Manchester United’s fixture against Burnley, Liverpool lead the standings in the English Premier League. Despite enduring a winless run of three matches, the Reds still lead the way with no team taking advantage of Liverpool’s unusual blip in form.
After a dire spell, perhaps the biggest game of the season is exactly what Klopp and Liverpool need, just to remind the football world of what they’re truly capable of and also to remind their rivals to know their place in the race for the title – most notably their opponents this weekend, who have punched above their weight, surprising many pundits and fans by challenging for the league.
Liverpool have shown that they have the big match temperament to bounce back which has already been highlighted this season as they beat Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Leicester City and Wolves, conceding just twice against those teams, while they also held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium.
After an injury-plagued period, Liverpool seem to be welcoming back some of their star players one by one as Joel Matip faces a race to fitness this weekend to partner the ever-reliable Fabinho in the heart of defence.
The Reds’ dynamic full-backs have been fit and ready for a while now, while their preferred midfield trio of Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and Thiago Alcantara will be looking to win their battle against arguably the best midfield in the league.
Diogo Jota remains a notable absentee from Klopp’s squad, which makes selection much easier with Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane likely to make up the front three.
As straightforward as it may seem to name Liverpool’s best team, finding a formula to beat the Reds is what proves to be most tricky – something Solskjaer will have to try master by Sunday.
Manchester United have the opportunity to silence all their critics and put all negative talk behind them as they gear up to face the champions and their bitter rivals, Liverpool.
Despite their blistering form and their position on the log standings, many are struggling to take United serious as title chasers and believe that its just a stellar run of results whilst other teams in the race are dropping off. But this is their chance to mute all that.
Since Bruno Fernandes’ arrival in January last year, no team has picked up more points than Manchester United which suggests the Red Devils have every right to believe that this is their season.
If they are to achieve any sort of success this term, they’ll need Fernandes to be at his best with the Portuguese magician already showing his capabilities of taking a big game by the scruff of its neck. His partnership with Paul Pogba in recent weeks has been well-documented with the French World Cup winner showing signs of returning to his best form.
Their dynamism in midfield is well-protected by Scott McTominay, who has re-established himself in the anchoring role for Manchester United. For this tie, the trio are expected to form a five-man midfield alongside two operating wing-backs with Solskjaer likely to adopt a 3-5-2 formation – as he does away to some of the tougher opponents he faces.
With that being said, Solskjaer will need pace up front to catch the Reds on the counter with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial playing the roles they have mastered in recent months, playing in a front two alongside each other.
If all goes according to plan, this will definitely be Solskjaer’s biggest victory in his Man United managerial career, while many would argue that it could be the club’s biggest result post-Sir Alex Ferguson.
Verdict: Liverpool (1/1)
Very seldomly would you see Liverpool priced up at even money on home soil, but Manchester United’s form justifies the Reds’ value at Anfield. That run of form will come to an end someday and Sunday may be their time to relinquish their sublime form. Liverpool are unbeaten at home since 2017 and have relished games of this magnitude. Solskjaer has a fantastic record against the big guns but has never beaten Liverpool ever as a manager – the only top-flight team in England who have never fallen victim to the Norwegian’s tactics. It seems like the easy way out, but I can’t see anything other than a Liverpool victory.
Written by Jesse Nagel