When Manchester United & Liverpool clash heads on Sunday, the only real thing on the line will be a spot in next season’s Champions League. Right now, both teams are at different ends of the spectrum when it comes to UCL qualification.
While the Red Devils only need a couple more wins to secure their spot, Liverpool are in danger of missing out. One more loss could possibly end Jurgen Klopp’s dreams of a top-4 finish. Knowing the circumstances, United would love to serve a bitter dose of reality to their arch-rivals with a big win to permanently dent LFC’s Premier League top-4 chances & take one step closer to securing their own UCL qualification.
Manchester United Likely XI
Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Fred, McTominay, Pogba, Bruno, Rashford, Greenwood
Anthony Martial remains the only injury absentee from the United squad.
Liverpool Likely XI
Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Kabak, Philips, Robertson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Thiago, Salah, Jota, Firmino
Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez & Virgil van Dijk are all injured – but Nat Philips should be back.
Manchester United vs Liverpool preview
In this season so far, Man United has only won 2 games against ‘traditional top-six PL sides’ –both of which came in their visits to Tottenham Hotspur & Man City recently. At Old Trafford, they haven’t won a game against a ‘big side’ since last season and want to improve that record against Liverpool.
Despite all their issues at Anfield, the Reds have actually been a formidable unit in away games – winning 4 out of their last 5 away visits in the league. United have also won their last 4 home games in the PL, so something has got to give here!
After defeating them in the FA Cup clash earlier this season, the Red Devils will be confident of their chances here. But they definitely can’t get a win if they are as wasteful & lethargic as they were in the drab Leeds United draw.
The attackers need to step up their performance levels, which starts with Bruno Fernandes. After an excellent first half of the season, he’s now goalless in the league since the Manchester Derby. Despite getting involved in attacking moves & sneaking into scoring areas, he just can’t seem to get his shots on goal.
Fernandes must pick up his game & put in a dynamic performance as he did as a substitute vs Liverpool in the FA Cup game. With his ‘big game flop’ reputation growing, he needs to dominate the attacking third, creates chances with his unpredictable passes & clinically finish whatever chances he gets to get among the goals.
Mason Greenwood also starred against LFC in that FA Cup encounter and with 3 goals in his last 4 PL games, he’s hungry for more. The Englishman just needs to be more decisive with his output in & get himself into central areas to torment Alisson with his lethal shooting.
Marcus Rashford looks tormenting every time he gets hold of possession these days, but he’ll probably operate from the right again on Sunday. While not his most comfortable area, Rashy should look to trouble Andy Robertson with his pace & deliver quality balls into the box to create stuff.
Paul Pogba is primed to operate in that left-wing role again and should look to torment Trent Alexander-Arnold with his movement & link up with the buzzing Luke Shaw, while also creating chances with his deft passes. Fred & Scott McTominay will operate in deeper areas trying to cut down Liverpool’s attacks & kick-start counter-attacks but need to maintain 100% concentration to keep their midfield quiet.
Despite missing Van Dijk & Gomez, Liverpool’s defensive shape has been surprisingly solid in recent weeks – so United has to be ruthless on counter-attacks to trouble them. The Red Devils also need to be wary of their opponents’ threat on the other end & be defensively flawless.
The PL top scorer Mo Salah is trying his best to drag Liverpool to a top-4 finish & loves a game against United. With his troubling movement & ability to get into unpredictable scoring areas, he can easily score a couple if given enough space in the final third.
Diogo Jota also loves creating things out of nothing & is a real fox in the box, while Roberto Firmino can be a nightmare to deal with because of his proactiveness & creativity. To add to that, Robertson & Alexander-Arnold can be troublesome with his fantastic crosses & set-piece delivery. Not only does United have to be at their best in defending set-pieces, but a sturdy unit against LFC’s pace too.
Harry Maguire & Victor Lindelof must maintain utmost concentration to clear away the danger in clutch moments, while Shaw & Aaron Wan-Bissaka work hard to neutralize LFC’s supply chain from the wide areas.
With neither benefitting from a draw, this should be a thrilling end-to-end clash. The Red Devils just have to be more lethal than LFC in finishing their chances (which they should get aplenty), defend strongly as a unit & outwork their opponents to end their UCL dreams.
This is a tough one to predict knowing how much is at stake here. I think with United’s Europa League clashes sandwiched between this, they won’t be at their very best but surely not at their worst too. Going for a 2-2 draw here.