09 March 2018

Liverpool at Manchester United 03.10.18

7:30am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
0-0 (h) 10.14.17
1-1 (a) 01.15.17
0-0 (h) 10.17.16
1-1 (a; Europa League) 03.17.16

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Porto (h); 2-0 Newcastle (h); 4-1 West Ham (h)
United: 3-2 Palace (a); 2-1 Chelsea (h); 0-0 Sevilla (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Salah 24; Firmino 13; Mané 8; Coutinho 7; Can, Oxlade-Chamberlain 3; Sturridge 2; Alexander-Arnold, Henderson, Klavan, Lovren, Matip, Wijnaldum 1
United: Lukaku 14; Martial 9; Lingard 8; Rashford 4; Fellaini, Mata, Pogba, Valencia 3; Smalling, Young 2; Alexis, Bailly, Matic, Mkhitaryan 1

Referee: Craig Pawson (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Trent A-A Lovren van Dijk Robertson
Alex O-C Henderson Can
Salah Firmino Mané

I still don't like this fixture, but I'm not afraid of this fixture.

I used to be. Maybe I should still be. There's only one other fixture that causes as much pain with a Liverpool setback – the city rivals. For all the complaints, and sometimes mediocre football, there are still a lot of good players at Manchester United, especially up front and in goal. Few managers can kill a match as thoroughly as Manchester United's.

But it's hard to fear Jose Mourinho's Manchester United.

And it's easy to fear Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool.

Mourinho's United take the fewest shots per match in the top six. They allow the most shots in the top six. They have the least possession. But only City and Liverpool have scored more goals. But only City have conceded fewer. But United have a better record in top-six matches that Liverpool, with home wins over Tottenham and Chelsea, even if they've scored fewer than half the goals that Liverpool have in top-six matches. But United are still second, ahead of Liverpool by two points.

Maybe I should still be afraid.

We're all but certain what Liverpool's XI will look like. The only questions are the usual: can Henderson play three games in a week – especially after suffering a dead leg against Porto – or will the midfield be Can, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain instead? Will Lovren or Matip partner van Dijk?

United's XI isn't that hard to guess either, with Herrera, Blind, and Jones out injured, while Fellaini's only just returned and will probably be on the bench at best. De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Young; McTominay, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Lukaku, Alexis. Maybe it's Rashford, Mata, or Martial in place of Lingard. With Fellaini, Blind, and Herrera out, it's hard to see a different midfield; Mata's a possibility in the three, but starting both he and Pogba would be very un-Mourinho.

Almost every match between Klopp's Liverpool and Mourinho's United has followed the same pattern. Mourinho sets up his side to nullify, De Gea stands on his head, Liverpool only draw. United remain the only Premier League side that Klopp's yet to beat in a league match. Newcastle, and Rafa Benitez, shared that honor just a few weeks ago. They don't anymore.

Liverpool haven't drawn consecutive matches since the beginning of December. Liverpool have followed previous 0-0 draws this season with 4-0 and 7-0 wins. If Liverpool press as Liverpool can press, score as Liverpool can score, and defend as they have done in the last few matches, Liverpool should win.

Liverpool are the more exciting side. Liverpool, at their best, are the better side, no matter what the table currently says. So change the table. And change the narrative.


Mike Taylor said...

There's only one thing that can stop Liverpool from winning this game, and winning it well: David de Gea. This version of Man. U. is the most one-man team I can ever remember in the Premier League.

Eugene Kua said...

De Gea is slightly vulnerable lately. Exploit that!