Liverpool vs. Man U
Venue: Anfield Stadium
Kick off: 5PM
This weekend’s standout Premier League fixture takes place at Anfield this afternoon as Liverpool face fading force Manchester United in the North-West derby.
The Reds remain unbeaten in the top flight after 16 matches, whereas 20-time champions United are down in sixth place.
With Man City falling to a 2-0 reverse at Stamford Bridge last time out, the Reds stand a point clear at the summit.
This is not exactly new territory for the Merseyside outfit, having mounted a few notable title challenges in the recent past, but the group of players put together by Klopp certainly seems to be made of far sterner stuff – from summer signing Alisson Becker in goal through to arguably the division’s most talented player in Mohamed Salah up top.
Strengthening at the back with the addition of Alisson during the off-season, six months after bringing in club-record signing Virgil van Dijk from Southampton, has more than paid off for Liverpool. Just six Prem goals have been shipped all season, leaving them on course to break the record set by Chelsea in 2004-05.
In fact, the Reds have not conceded more than one goal in a game in any of their last 19 league outings – their best run of defensive form since the late 1970s – and they continue to score goals at an impressive rate at the other end of the pitch.
Salah has made a mockery of those who suggested that his 2017-18 goalscoring return would be a one-off, racking up 10 goals already this time around to joint-lead the scoring charts. The Egyptian has opened the scoring in seven matches, meanwhile, and scored the winner six times – both league-high tallies.
However, Liverpool’s famed front three of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane – which has been broken apart at times this season with Klopp using a 4-2-3-1, depending on the opponents – have failed to score or assist a goal in a Premier League game against United in nearly 1,000 combined minutes on the field.
All three men played in a part in last weekend’s 4-0 destruction of Bournemouth, which was arguably the first time that Klopp’s men have truly swept aside a team since cruising to a 3-0 win over Southampton at the end of September.
That was followed up by a tense 1-0 win over Napoli in the Champions League in midweek, keeping the Reds on course for silverware on multiple fronts as they embark on a tough run of games that sees them face United, Arsenal and Man City in the next three weeks.
Come through that run unscathed and supporters really can begin to believe that this will finally be their year.
While Liverpool fans have plenty to be excited about, it is a different matter entirely for those of a Man United persuasion. One win from their last five league matches shows just how far the mighty have fallen.
The Red Devils did at least manage to end their four-game winless run last weekend with a straightforward 4-1 triumph over Fulham, though it was a case of one step forward and two steps back due to their performance against Valencia in midweek.
A 2-1 loss at the Mestalla would prove costly for United as it denied them top spot in their group, meaning a difficult last-16 tie in the Champions League when European action resumes two months from now.
Even accounting for the win against Fulham, Jose Mourinho’s underperforming side have taken only six points from the last 15 on offer. A defeat to neighbours Man City was followed up by successive draws with Crystal Palace, Southampton and then Arsenal.
Momentum just seems impossible to come by at the moment for the country’s most-successful side, last winning back-to-back matches at the beginning of November.
Liverpool possible XI: Alisson, Milner, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Keita, Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Man U possible XI: De Gea, Young, Bailly, Jones, Shaw, Herrera, Fellaini, Matic, Lingard, Lukaku, Rashford.