Soccer

Big Test For Liverpool As Champions Take On Resurgent Manchester United

Liverpool have taken just one point from their last three Premier League matches, with their most recent outing a 1-0 defeat away to Southampton which has allowed their rivals – such as Man United – to make up significant ground and open up the title race.

“Very frustrating, just because it’s so unnecessary but it still happens. We had a bad start in the game, we played completely into Southampton’s hands and gave the game away, we have to admit now,” said Reds manager Jurgen Klopp. “We know about the situation, we are not silly, and we have to show a reaction, 100 per cent.”

United, ahead of facing Burnley in midweek, have put together a 10-match unbeaten run in the Premier League and look to have developed into genuine title contenders, with the season reaching its halfway point in this round of matches.

“Definitely the mentality is stronger,” Solskjaer said of his team’s improvement. “I think we have competition for places which means you can not go around thinking that you can just fake your way being part of this team because you only deserve to be in a team you contribute to.

“I think everyone has just realised they are privileged to be part of Manchester United, such a fantastic club with a fantastic history. When you are here, enjoy it as much as you can and maybe experience some fantastic times.”

Key players

 Mohamed Salah – The Egyptian was on target when Liverpool and United last met – almost a year ago – and he will be licking his lips at the prospect of exploiting the space between Harry Maguire and his left-back. Salah’s pace and deadly finishing could well decide this classic Premier League rivalry and ensure the Merseysiders remain on course to defend their title.

Marcus Rashford – The Man United attacker has been lauded for his off-field charity work through 2020, but his on-field performances have been almost as good. Rashford has become an efficient finisher and creator, capable of playing anywhere in a front three, and the Red Devils will need him to be at his peak if they are to come away from Anfield with all three points.

Head-to-head stats 

In head-to-head stats, Liverpool and United have met in 232 matches across all competitions since their first clash back in 1894. The Red Devils have claimed 88 wins compared to 77 for the Reds, while 67 games have been drawn.

Last season Liverpool took four points off United, drawing 1-1 at Old Trafford in October 2019 before a 2-0 win in the return game at Anfield in January 2020 – featuring goals from Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah.

Battles to watch 

Jurgen Klopp v Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Man United’s Norwegian manager will set his team out to play on the counter attack, but Jurgen Klopp will nonetheless encourage his team to crowd forward in numbers and use their ability to switch play quickly from flank to flank to give them an edge in this tactical battle.

Sadio Mane v Aaron Wan-Bissaka – Manchester United right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka is regarded as perhaps the best one-on-one defender in the Premier League, but he will still have his hands full trying to tie down Senegalese superstar Sadio Mane, whose pace, strength and relentlessness have made him one of Europe’s most devastating forwards.

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane (left) Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool.

Jordan Henderson v Bruno Fernandes – Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson will have one of the key roles in trying to quell the threat of Red Devils playmaker Bruno Fernandes. Closing down the Portuguese and ensuring he has neither the space nor time to play defence-splitting passes will go a long way toward securing a home win for ‘Pool.

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Match broadcast details 

Sunday 17 January

18:30: Liverpool v Manchester United  –LIVE on SuperSport Premier League and SuperSport Maximo 1

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