Some of the key on and off-field matchups which fans need to take note in this classic Northwest derby.
The Reds travel the short distance up the M62 to play United at Old Trafford on Saturday. Historically a key battle for many reasons, this season the stakes are set even higher, with battle for supremacy pending with a draw in the previous fixture and the battle for 2nd spot heating up between the two rivals.
The rivals are also likely coming into this with different mindsets – With Liverpool flying and unbeaten across their last 5 in the league, while United have one loss but 2 impressive victories vs Chelsea and a come from behind one against Crystal Palace.
Scroll through this slide show to see what we believe will be the key battles in the middle and off the pitch.
In addition, do also listen to the below pod if you have some time where our boys have some fun dissecting the upcoming game in depth, looking at form, formations, injuries and the players who are set to make this an exciting game.
Chamberlain vs Matic
Knowing Mourinho, the man is going to do his best to pack the middle of the field and give Liverpool no space to operate in. With Fellaini and Herrera out injured, Mou will likely place a lot of trust in Matic to be the defensive rock at the base of the midfield. If United choose to play with a two-man midfield with Pogba alongside Matic, his task will surely only become harder. On the other side, if selected, Chamberlain will likely play the role of looking to break through the lines in the middle. With Chamberlain’s improvement in form and a staunch Matic at the centre, this will be a key battle to decide balance of play in the middle of the park.
Smalling & Jones vs Firmino
It is not a secret that Smalling and Jones are not the Premier League’s best or smartest defenders. Jones in particular is prone to mistakes and De Gea has constantly saved them blushes. The overall organisation of United too has helped to mask the weaknesses of the two suspect Centre backs. Attacking these two through the middle would be a false nine in Firmino, a smart player who thrives on dragging defenders out of place and creating space of the team around him. It will be interesting if Firmino’s smartness will help Liverpool get a one-up or if the organisation of United will top all else.
Lukaku vs Van Dijk / Lovren / Matip
Lukaku was brought to United as the big 30+ goal a season striker but has so far failed to justify the price tag. While he has scored a respectable 14 goals in 28 league appearances for United, his price tag has set the bar higher making 14 seem not good enough. In addition, his lack of goals against the big boys has piled the pressure on his to deliver the goods. In the reverse fixture, was largely ineffectual and had had few meaningful touches. With the Liverpool defence looking solid for a change, will Lukaku use his pace and power to trouble the Liverpool defence or will the Liverpool defence get the better of him again? To be seen.
Mourinho vs Klopp
Yes, this is a battle which isn’t on the pitch but has to be mentioned. These are two managers, with a differing outlook towards football and both very successful. Three of the last four meetings have come out a stalemate with Liverpool winning one of the games. Both managers have led their teams ably but now the second spot is up for grabs. Will Mourinho settle for a draw and continue barely clinging onto second or will he come out to win and cement the 2nd spot?
On the other side, Klopp makes no bones about wanting to win every game playing his way, irrespective of the opposition and the venue. Will this work on Saturday or will it play into Mourinho’s keen hands? Another battle to look forward to then.