Liverpool vs. Man U
Venue: Anfield Stadium
Kick off: 3:05pm
One of the biggest games of the Premier League calendar will be held on Sunday (today) when Liverpool take on Manchester United at Anfield for the 194th meeting between the arch rivals.
The two North-West clubs are the most successful in English football history, but they find themselves below the top five of the league table, with a Champions League spot their main target.
There is certainly no love lost between these two clubs, but it appears that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been waxing lyrical about United’s current and former managers.
On Friday, the German coach, who arrived at Anfield as Brendan Rodgers’s replacement in October, described current boss Louis van Gaal as “one of the most successful coaches in the world”.
Klopp also spoke of United’s former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, whom he described as the football equivalent of The Beatles legend John Lennon.
There may have been kind words before kickoff, but on the pitch, it will be far from kind as Klopp will experience his first clash between the two enemies.
History has shown us that these games tend to be fiery encounters, and as recent as last season fans witnessed then-Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard get sent off 48 seconds into his appearance off the bench after stamping on Ander Herrera.
The Reds went on to lose the game 2-1 at Anfield – a stadium that has hosted inconsistent results for the Merseyside outfit this season.
So far, the team have won just four home games in the Premier League, and in the remaining six, they have lost two and drawn four, so it has not quite been a fortress this season.
Inconsistency and injuries have been the theme of Liverpool’s season so far as they have managed to put on stunning performances against Manchester City and Chelsea, yet lose to the likes of Watford and Newcastle United.
With regards to the treatment table, at one point, Liverpool had 12 players out of action, half of whom with hamstring injuries, which called into question Klopp’s training methods and demand for a high-pressing game.
The defence has been significantly hit with injuries as centre-backs Dejan Lovren, Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure all succumbed to muscular problems, which forced Liverpool into signing Queens Park Rangers defender Steven Caulker on loan until the end of the season.
On Wednesday, the Reds played at a high intensity against Arsenal and were rewarded for it when Roberto Firmino scored two goals, but they were dealt a blow when Olivier Giroud put the Gunners 3-2 up. Klopp’s side continued to push for a goal and it eventually came in the 90th minute from substitute Joe Allen, who earned a point for his team in the dying minutes of the clash.
While it was an exciting contest, particularly for the neutral, it will be interesting to see whether the team can keep up that level of energy today when they welcome a side who have also been inconsistent this season.
In addition, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet made a couple of mistakes on the night and there were clear defensive issues, which would have been addressed in training this week.
Liverpool are ninth in the league table and will move level on points with United if they manage to beat their rivals today.
Last week, a report emerged claiming that Manchester United will sack manager Van Gaal if his team lose to Newcastle and Liverpool.
Well, the Red Devils did not suffer defeat at the hands of the Magpies, but they did relinquish a lead twice to settle for a 3-3 draw, so if United get beaten by their arch rivals at the weekend, is that the end for Van Gaal? Time will tell.
The club have had a tumultuous season given that they have dented their hopes of winning the title and they failed to make it into the knockout stages of the Champions League, despite spending over £200m on transfers.
Van Gaal’s tactics have come into question, with some describing the lack of attacking intent as ‘boring’, but the team showed against Newcastle on Tuesday night that they are still capable of entertaining the fans.
The table does not lie and United are only two points off a Champions League spot, but there is a sense of discontent around Old Trafford as Van Gaal’s team are not dominating games that they arguably should.
Wayne Rooney’s form has not been up to his usual standard as before January he had only scored seven goals in all competitions, but the England captain seems to be getting back on track having scored four in his last three games – one against Swansea City, one against Sheffield United in the FA Cup and two penalties against Newcastle.
Those goals will give the 30-year-old a big boost in confidence ahead of today’s crucial fixture, which has been dominated by the Red Devils in the last few years as they have won the last three league meetings between the two sides.
Liverpool possible starting lineup: Mignolet, Clyne, Toure, Sakho, Moreno, Henderson, Milner, Can, Lallana, Ibe, Firmino.
Manchester United possible starting lineup: De Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Young, Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin, Herrera, Mata, Martial, Rooney.