Friday, 13 October 2017

Match preview: Liverpool v United

This is a contest that requires little introduction as the Reds of Manchester and Merseyside collide for the 199th time at Anfield.

Britain's two most successful and decorated sides resume their storied rivalry in the Saturday lunch-time kick off, with unbeaten, in-form United set for the most difficult challenge of the campaign so far.

Both sides have injury problems ahead of the clash with the hosts star man, Senegalese frontman Sadio Mane, out for up to six weeks with a hamstring tear.
Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino are likely to play, but Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren look set to miss out. 

Midfield trio Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba are all sidelined for the Reds, but Phil Jones and Romelu Lukaku are both fit and expected to feature. 
Ander Herrera will come in alongside Nemanja Matic with the Reds likely to field a back three with wing-backs. 

Jurgen Klopp's side have proved the epitome of inconsistent so far this season, having picked up five points from their four games since the 4-0 demolition of Arsenal at Anfield.
They were knocked out of the Carabao Cup at the first hurdle by Leicester and drew both of their opening Champions League games, with brilliant attacking play undermined by slipshod defensive shortcomings. 

Both meetings last season ended in stalemate, as Jose's defensive masterclass secured a goalless draw at Anfield followed by Zlatan's late equaliser in the 1-1 in January's return fixture.
United hold a superb recent record against the Merseysiders having won four times in a row under Louis van Gaal, with the Europa League KO in March 2016 the only blot on the copybook. 

United have won six on the spin, but this is a fixture where form counts for nothing as the Reds run out into the hostile Anfield atmosphere in the first Premier League game after the international hiatus. 

Boss Jose Mourinho understands the importance of the match, but is treating the clash of the North-West heavyweights no different to any other game.

He said: "I know the tradition, the feelings around the supporters, but I look at this in a professional way, to tell my players that every match is important, not just one.
"Every point is important, there is no easy match and none that you prepare more carefully for than others.
"For us it is not a problem, but it is not nice for the opponents to say that this is our first difficult fixture.
"We want to win, but we play against a strong team who want the same, they play at home and we know they are good in matches against the top teams so it won't be easy. 
"Everybody knows that there are better teams than others, as at the end of the season we see the champion, runner up, third and fourth - but to say they're easy matches to win I think is a bit aggressive to the others."

Form guide: Liverpool D D L W D D United W W W W W W 
Match odds: Liverpool 13/8 Draw 12/5 United 8/5
Referee: Bradford - based official Martin Atkinson is the man in the middle 

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