Manchester United vs Liverpool
Venue: Old Trafford
Referee: Craig Pawson
TV: Sky Sports Main Event
The fixture of the season for many football fans will be the biggest one in recent years, as Manchester United host Liverpool with second place and bragging rights in the Derby up for grabs.
Manchester United have sputtered in recent weeks but still come off of a vital comeback victory against Crystal Palace at the weekend. Jose Mourinho will hope that was the boost his players needed to finish the final stretch of the season strong, starting this weekend. Visitors Liverpool are in red hot form, with 4 wins on the bounce before drawing with Porto on Tuesday. Jurgen Klopp will see this as a vital opportunity to separate from the rest of the top four pack.
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Liverpool will have Andy Robertson, Jordan Henderson and Gigi Wijnaldum back in contention after all three trained in the buildup to the match. Nathaniel Clyne won’t be risked as he continues to build up his fitness. Otherwise Klopp and his men are at full strength.
Salah, Firmino and Mane have been in prolific goal scoring form, leading the line as Liverpool have been almost unstoppable, especially at home. Despite no side scoring more away league goals in the big 5 European leagues this season, Liverpool have only one point in their three previous trips to fellow top 6 teams. Boosted by the addition of Van Dijk at the back, their defense has gone up a notch. Liverpool will have the opportunity to answer the question of whether or not they can win both on sides of the pitch against a top side on the road and get all three points. With plenty of expected possession, the likes of Alexis and Lukaku will have good opportunities on the counter if Liverpool aren’t careful and get carried away.
Manchester United will be boosted by Marouane Fellaini’s return to the squad and Eric Bailly being declared fully fit by Mourinho after appearing on the bench in recent weeks. Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Ander Herrera remain out. There are also reports Paul Pogba had a hiccup in training Friday and will need to pass a late fitness test.
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In their last two victories Manchester United had to come from behind after terrible starts to both matches. Nonetheless they showed both great character and brilliant attacking ability to get back in the matches and take all the points. With a vital Champions League game midweek against Sevilla, now is the time to continue in the right direction and get off on the front foot. Liverpool are deadly in front of goal and the uninspired lethargic team we saw in the first 50 minutes at Selhurst Park would get battered. Manchester United will look to hit on the counter and thus need their stars, especially up front, to stay involved and be sharp when provided opportunities going forward. Both teams understand what is at stake and not showing up mentally for a match of this magnitude would be inexcusable.
Predicted Starting XI:
Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Shaw, McTominay, Matic, Mata, Alexis, Rashford, Lukaku
Liverpool FC: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane
Prediction: Manchester United 3 – 2 Liverpool
It has been a tight battle for second place in recent weeks and this match will be no different. A moment of quality could decide this match and both teams have the players capable of producing the spectacular. After three draws in the last three meetings, and only 2 goals, this match should produce fireworks with both teams looking their strongest in recent years. After spirit lifting victories the last couple weekends, I expect Manchester United to carry that edge into this one and get the result.
Written by Ammar Nazarali. (@FPLAmmar)