Michael Baddeley takes a look at what should be expected from Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford this afternoon.
It’s safe to say Liverpool haven’t had the greatest of starts to 2017. In fact, two draws and one loss is actually a very poor start when you take into account the teams we have played.
But Jürgen and his boys will be eager to register their first win of the year and there isn’t a better game to do it in, Man United away. The old rivals from down East Lancashire road.
Last time the two sides met Liverpool were flying and United were looking very poor to say the least. Mourinho and his men came into the game needing a result desperately, so what did they do? They set up to spoil the affair and did just that by coming away with a point from quite possibly the most boring North-West derby I have ever seen.
Now the roles have been reversed, it’s United who have the momentum and the Red Devils have the backing of all the media including pundits such as ex-Red Graeme Souness.
Call me stupid but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Despite our incredible form against the top six, nobody is expecting us to pick up the points. We are the underdogs and in my opinion, that’s when Liverpool are at their best.
Come this evening, they could be two points behind us and we could be fifth in the league. However, the momentum could swing back in our favour with a win, a win that would open the gap on our rivals as well as prove to everyone that we truly are title contenders and the biggest threat to Chelsea.
It’s hard to predict what Mourinho will do with his team come 4 PM. As I said earlier, he set up to spoil the game last time and I expect him to do the same again. But with the game being at Old Trafford, momentum on their side and the need for points surely his team will attack us?
Unfortunately for us, it’s not normal for a Mourinho team to attack when playing against a big team and personally I can’t see him changing that this weekend. He might lump balls into the box for Zlatan, but he probably won’t attack, especially with the pace and threat we posses on the counter-attack.
Predicting the starting XI:
Mignolet, Clyne Lovren Klavan Milner, Lallana Henderson Can, Origi Firmino Coutinho.
The return of Migs won’t come as much of a surprise. Karius kept us in the tie on Wednesday with a couple of really good saves and certainly made a case to be played in the big affair this Sunday. However, I can’t see the gaffer putting him in a game with such a media exposure. One mistake and he’d be slaughtered more than ever before!
The full backs are set in stone, barring any last minute injuries. Clyne and Milner will start.
I would love nothing more than Matip to be fit enough to come in and control that mouthy, arrogant Ibrahimovic. But this game has probably come too early for him to start, meaning Klavan and Lovren will be the centre-back partnership. Let’s just hope they perform like they did against City and Everton!
Henderson’s reintroduction to the side will be a massive boost for the lads. In the three games he’s missed the midfield have looked lethargic, to say the least. Can doesn’t possess the energy to do what the skipper does and as a result the other two have had to help out a lot more meaning they haven’t been able to make the off-the-ball runs that were so successful at the start of the season.
Personally, I think we should go back to the midfield of Lallana, Wijnaldum and Hendo as there was more movement and teams couldn’t cope with the attacking threat we added from midfield, but I trust Klopp so I won’t moan too much.
Coutinho and Firmino are the obvious choices for Jürgen, it’s just the third player to play in the front three that will cause the gaffer problems. Does he go for the clinical option in Sturridge, or opt for the player which will fit the system better in Origi?
Due to how the game could possibly pan-out, I think Divock will be the one to get the nod. If United actually set up for a game of football and try to attack us then we could see a very open game, a game where we could easily go out and hit them of the counter-attack. Something I wouldn’t be too shocked at us doing if given the chance too.
You never want to go to Old Trafford when United have momentum on their side as they will take a lot to stop. However, we are yet to lose to a top six side this season and Klopp does have a good record against Mourinho.
There’s so much at stake for both sides. United are fighting to catch up, Liverpool are aiming to cement their title credentials and both are looking to keep within touching distance of the team just above them.
A win for either would give them great momentum going into the second half of the season, a loss would be a massive confidence killer and yet a draw wouldn’t suit either of the sides, thus making it so hard to predict how this one if going to pan out.
People are expecting a high-paced, action-packed, slugfest with the game being won in midfield. But I can’t see it myself. I fully expect Mourinho’s boys to bypass the midfield by lumping balls into the box to the big man and get players in and around him for the knock downs, something that won’t be too attacking so they can be wary of counter-attacks.
I hope I am wrong, but Mou loves to ruin games like this and this will be no different. I’m going for a low-scoring draw.