Friday 15 January 2016

Match preview: Liverpool v United

United manager Louis van Gaal has called for his players to play with "controlled aggression" as he takes his side to Anfield in search of a fourth consecutive victory over our North-West neighbours on Sunday. 

Despite the fact that these two great rivals are now merely challenging for the top four and not the title, Van Gaal has maintained that the historical prestige of the fixture means it will always be the biggest match in England.

The Dutchman said:

"That is how the fans of both clubs see it and I feel it also already in the four times we have played against each other- even when we played in the USA (in 2014).
"I have seen the reaction of the fans when we have beaten them and I think we are all ready to play in this game but we have to show it and against the resistance of Liverpool.
"You can see that what happened last year when Steven Gerrard was sent off within thirty seconds- that is not happening so often so you can see that it is a game that is different
"We need to be aggressive but also under control and play with our heads, but that can be difficult because the passion and intensity to play in these games is very high."

The boss confirmed that Bastian Schweinsteiger and Phil Jones are making progress from their respective knee and ankle problems but both remain doubtful for the Anfield clash. 
Michael Carrick misses out through injury but Adnan Januzaj could be involved from the bench while Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw are not yet ready to return.

Liverpool have injury problems of their own and will be without defensive duo Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren as well as strikers Daniel Sturridge, Danny Ings and Divock Origi and key playmaker Philippe Coutinho. 

Nevertheless, with Coutinho sidelined, fellow Brazilian attacker Firmino stepped up to the plate as a creative and goalscoring threat with a brace in midweek against Arsenal.
Christian Benteke remains a formidable and physical presence up top and scored a spectacular acrobatic effort in our win in September's r
everse fixture- his third consecutive strike against United.

On facing his friend Jurgen Klopp, Van Gaal added:

"You can see his hand and that is important, you can see a very aggressive and pressing way of playing the game but of course he has to learn the rhythm of the Premier League and I think he knows the difference from the German league already.
"He is a very good manager, his teams are always competitive and the fans shall love it."

Liverpool currently sit in ninth, five points behind United who are sixth and two points off fourth placed Spurs so this match will not only offer the usual mix of chaos and drama but also go a long way to deciding which of these two are most likely to finish in the top four come May. 

Come on United!!! 

Form guide: Liverpool W W L W D D United L L D W W D
Match odds: Liverpool 9/4 Draw 7/1 United 12/5
Referee: Mark Clattenburg 

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