Premier League 17/18: Manchester United vs Liverpool – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
England’s two most successful clubs clash for the 200th time in Saturday’s lunchtime blockbuster with 2nd place the prize at stake.
12:30 GMT, Saturday 10th March, Old Trafford (Manchester, England), Sky Sports
While Manchester United are not struggling for form, neither are they currently setting the Premier League alight.
José Mourinho’s side have been quietly efficient for much of this season, a fact reflected by their current position of second in the table.
With only one loss from their previous 31 home games in the Premier League and a mere seven points dropped from their 14 games at Old Trafford this season, the Red Devils could have a strong advantage being the home team.
Having won only one of their last 11 visits to Old Trafford and lost eight of these games, Liverpool’s record at Old Trafford is far from perfect in recent memory.
However, Jürgen Klopp has overseen an evolution of his team this season, led by Mohamed Salah who goes into this match chasing a goal in a sixth successive match.
Unbeaten in their last five fixtures against United and having drawn each of the last three Premier League encounters, the Reds will hope to evolve this trend into a win during the 200th competitive meeting between these two clubs.
Last Time Out
Crystal Palace 2-3 Manchester United (Premier League)
A lacklustre display was saved by a rallying final half hour in which United took advantage of a tiring Eagles side.
Second-best in most areas of the field, United lacked intensity and quality during the first half against the injury-ravaged Eagles.
Palace took an early lead then deservedly went two goals ahead just minutes into the second half when David de Gea was beaten at his near-post for the second successive match.
A half-time substitution had seen Mourinho make a tactical switch, bringing on Marcus Rashford for the ineffectual Scott McTominay.
As momentum swung in United’s direction, a header from Chris Smalling and a composed finish from Romelu Lukaku brought the visitors level in the match.
It wasn’t until a thunderbolt from the feet of Nemanja Matic in stoppage time that United finally papered the cracks of this display. However, there was at least some belated positivity and fight from a side who looked lackadaisical for a long period in Monday night’s game.
Liverpool 0-0 FC Porto [agg 5-0] (Champions League)
A dead-rubber tie produced a forgettable encounter as both teams played out a lifeless stalemate.
Having made five changes to the eleven which started against Newcastle last weekend, Klopp took full advantage of resting his star players such as Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk.
The game itself saw Sadio Mané hit the post while substitute Danny Ings also went close, forcing Iker Casillas into a fine save towards the end of the game.
With Porto managing only a single shot on target throughout the game, the Portuguese side were playing a damage-limitation game from the start.
It resulted in a less-than-entertaining spectacle. However, it was a professional performance from the Reds which comfortably put them into the quarter-final draw.
Manchester United Lineup
Phil Jones, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo are all missing in defence due to various knocks while Marouane Fellaini (knee), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee) and Ander Herrera (muscular) also remained sidelined.
Anthony Martial is Mourinho’s only other doubt after missing Monday night’s match through injury, although there will still be 19 senior team players for the United manager to choose from.
Other than Nathaniel Clyne (muscular) Klopp does not have any major injury worries within his squad.
He does, however, have several players suffering small niggles with Andy Robertson and Jordan Henderson carrying minor knocks and Georginio Wijnaldum struck with an illness.
With a good chance that the latter three will all be available on Saturday, the bulk of the team who started the win over Manchester City can be expected within his first eleven this weekend.
Key Battle: Paul Pogba (Manchester United) vs Emre Can (Liverpool)
Big games require big players and in the face of his recent run of poor form, this is the moment for Pogba to defy his critics.
It seems that the position he’s taken on the field lately is of little consequence to the impact he’s brought to the team, something which has considerably dropped since facing Tottenham at the end of January.
While his price tag will invariably put his performances under a microscope, this is a game when United need their record signing to show what he can do.
On the other side of this midfield battle will be a Liverpool player who has consistently failed to win over his own set of critics.
Emre Can may receive some bad feeling for his unwillingness to sign an extended contract with the Merseyside club but he has not let his standards slip this season despite potentially nearing the end of his time at Anfield.
Whether he has or has not agreed a verbal deal with anyone for next season, he has continued to give his all for the club unlike the future Reds midfielder, Naby Keita, who has seemingly downed-tools during his final season with RB Leipzig.
Another fine game this weekend and Can could change some perceptions of him regardless of where he chooses to play next season.
Having recovered a win from a losing position in both of their previous games, Mourinho’s men have started to show a stronger mentality in recent weeks. All of the greatest teams always maintain the belief they will win a game and these recent late surges will certainly breed more confidence in the Old Trafford dressing room.
The bigger question facing the Red Devils is not the way in which they’re finishing matches though. For much of this season they have produced slow starts which have allowed their opponents a foothold in the contest.
Only once they have fallen behind do they appear to be triggered into action and while it’s an admirable quality to be able to strike back, it would be better for the team if they could find a way to strike first as well.
Top-six mini league
Last season Liverpool were at their strongest when playing teams near the top of the Premier League.
Of just fixtures involving the top-six sides, it was Liverpool who had the best record having won five and drawn five of their ten games with a goal difference of +7. By comparison, Manchester United were placed fifth with only two wins and four defeats leaving a goal difference of -5.
This season has seen the divide between the two clubs reduced with Manchester United currently boasting a marginally better record. Having recorded two wins, two losses and four draws, Liverpool have yet to win on the road against a close rival this season.
If there’s a good time to change this record, then it will surely be against their biggest rival of all.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool
Liverpool should be made favourites to win this game due to their superior form of late. However, United’s home advantage and recent ability to grind their way back into a match can not be ignored.
Manchester United are highly likely to set up defensively for the majority of this game as they would most probably lose a match in which they went toe-for-toe against Klopp’s side.
Whether United can stay concentrated for the full 90 minutes or if Liverpool can maintain their patience and find reward for their extra endeavour will have a big say in the final result which may well see both teams cancelling each other out.