As the North-West rivals gear up for their latest clash, managers Jürgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho will be preparing for what—on paper—should be a fairly even game. All of Liverpool and United’s last three encounters have finished in draws. Likewise—including previous clubs they’ve managed—Klopp and Mourinho have each won 50% of games encountered against each other. However, as things currently stand, it’s Klopp and Liverpool who are in desperate need of a win, having won just 1 out of their last 7 games. On the other hand, United are on a run of 10 games unbeaten and sit comfortably in second place of the Premier League table.
Now that the international break is out the way, fans will be eagerly anticipating a full-blooded encounter at Anfield. But will it be The Reds or The Red Devils who come out on top?
Mourinho and United’s first test
United have been in fine form so far this season. Their fans have arguably seen the most exciting football from their side since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, with Mourinho’s men yet to lose in the league and currently averaging three goals per game. Even with the loss of injured midfielder, Paul Pogba, there don’t appear to be any cracks emerging in their organised defence and creative attack: United currently have the Premier League’s most clean sheets (6) and highest goal scorer (Romelu Lukaku) to prove it.
When we take a look at the teams United have come up against in their 7 league games thus far, it would seem that the real test is yet to come. West Ham, Swansea, Leicester, Stoke, Everton, Southampton and Crystal Palace currently sit among the bottom 9 teams in the league. Stoke—currently in 13th position—even managed to gain a point against United, scoring twice in the process. It will be interesting to see how the side perform against the ‘top teams’ and Liverpool being one of them.
Frustration for Liverpool: Good, but not great
Liverpool fans have voiced their angst in recent weeks as Klopp’s men fail to rack up the points. Their frustrations aren’t exactly surprising though when we take a look at the statistics so far this season. Liverpool have had the highest amount of shots on goal in the Premier League but a shots-to-goal conversion rate of just 9.48%. The Reds are also averaging 55.8% of possession per Premier League game so far, despite winning just 3 in 7.
Defensively it’s not looking great either, with the third worst goals-against figure in the league (12). Liverpool look poor when defending set pieces and United will certainly seek to exploit that with their physical prowess (it’s no secret that Mourinho likes tall players). Frustrations are flourishing at Liverpool and the recent news that Ballon d’Or shortlister, Sadio Mane, could be out for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury doesn’t make the future look any brighter.
On a positive note, Liverpool have looked threatening on the break and particularly when their top goal scorer, Mohamed Salah, runs at defenders. The Egyptian manages to find his way through the backline, rendering opposition full backs helpless with his pace. Liverpool will want to exploit that speed, particularly if up against the likes of the rather-less-rapid Daley Blind at left back.
Phillipe Coutinho – Liverpool
The Brazilian has looked lively since his return to Klopp’s starting XI, scoring 2 and assisting 1 in 3 league appearances. His ability to draw fouls, seek out runs and shoot from long range will give United something to worry about. The 25-year-old is also a free-kick connoisseur and Liverpool will certainly be looking to win set pieces around the box.
Romelu Lukaku – Manchester United
With an ankle injury scare during the international break, United fans will be relieved to hear that their top goalscorer is fit to play this weekend. There’s no doubt that Lukaku is up there as one of the top clinical finishers in the Premier League. An already shaky looking Liverpool defence will attempt to keep the Belgian from entering the box. However—having scored a goal per game so far in the league—the 24-year-old is already looking likely to be on the scoresheet this Saturday.
Liverpool starting XI: Mignolet; Moreno, Matip, Lovren, Gomez; Can, Henderson, Coutinho; Salah, Firmino, Sturridge
Manchester United starting XI: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Young; Matic, Herrera; Mata, Mkhitaryan, Rashford; Lukaku
Score: Manchester United to win 2-1