Saturday, 15 December 2018

Preview: Liverpool v Man Utd

The 201st competitive meeting between the Reds of Manchester and Merseyside needs no introduction: it's the biggest game in the land and the one that we simply cannot lose. All logic - the form book, the table, the football landscape and just about everything else - points to only one outcome. You only have to look at the Premier League table to see that.
United have a fine record at Anfield and haven't lost there in the league since 2013 - even in these turbulent and troubled times, we've proved more than a match for the men from the East Lancs Road.

Jurgen Klopp hasn't beaten Jose Mourinho snce the latter arrived at Old Trafford and Liverpool haven't beaten us in the last eight league meetings, but if ever there's a time for the German to break that duck then it's now.
Liverpool come into this one in the finest of fettles - unbeaten and neck and neck with champions Manchester City in a battle for supremacy that unpalatably looks set to go to the wire. It's a nightmare situation for any United fan. Liverpool will move back to the summit with a win here, the Reds are carrying a long injury list and sit 16 points behind Klopp's side. This is the best Liverpool side I've seen and they're sacrificed their all-action, swashbuckling style for a more disciplined and durable approach, having conceded just six goals all season. Their front three of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane was arguably the best in Europe last term and, with the addition of summer signing Xherdan Shaqiri, will test United's make-do-and-mend backline to its limits.

Both sides are facing something of a defensive crisis, with Joel Matip (fractured collarbone) out for six weeks. Joe Gomez is also out after breaking his leg against Burnley, and Trent Alexander - Arnold is also a major doubt with a foot injury. Nathaniel Clyne is in contention to feature for the first time since May.
For United, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Matteo Darmian, Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot are all doubtful while Victor Lindelof (knee), Alexis Sanchez (hamstring) and Scott McTominay are also definitely on an ever lengthening list of absentees. Anthony Martial has missed the last two games with a knee problem, and United's top scorer will be assessed.

Jose Mourinho admitted that his side have a 'lot of uncertainties' heading into the titanic tussle between English football's two most successful and widely supported sides.

We know that we are going to play against the leader, against a team on a high. But we have our qualities, we have our potential, even with the problems we have and the doubts in terms of team choice, of tactics, approach, philosophy.
"We have doubts about everything because we don't know who's available but we are going to arrive on Sunday and, with the players we have available, we are going to have a team capable of going there and fight for the victory."


United's defence surely hasn't been solid enough to sit back and set up for a third 0-0 draw at Anfield in a row - but if Mourinho challenges his biggest stars to step up and match the league leaders, the risk could override the chance of reward. Come on United!!

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