Sunday 15th January. 4PM. Sky Sports 1
On a weekend that sees Premier League action return, the two most successful clubs in English football prepare to renew their rivalry at Old Trafford, and it could be one of the most important United-Liverpool contests in recent times.
Red Monday may have turned into dead Monday, but the Theatre of Dreams is set to play host to a far more exciting affair. And in addition to the local bragging rights, the result could go a long way to settling the top four come May too.
Prepare yourselves for a belter.
Red Devils Aiming For Perfect 10
Last weekend’s FA Cup demolition of Reading took Manchester United’s best run of the post-Ferguson era to nine straight wins in all competitions, and Jose Mourinho’s men couldn’t be in a better position as they welcome their fiercest rivals to Old Trafford. Complete the perfect 10 with a seventh straight league win, and their hopes of a top four finish will look stronger than ever.
The hosts will be sweating a little over Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s fitness. However, Mourinho has suggested that the veteran superstar should be ready to play, and his magic in the attacking third could be crucial. Wayne Rooney, meanwhile, would love nothing more than to secure his place as the club’s top scorer against the Anfield club.
United will be hoping to control the midfield area through the quality of Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba. While the absence of Eric Bailly to international duty is a slight issue, the Red Devils coped well without the summer signing during his time on the physio table and can be confident about doing so again here.
A win would put the Red Devils just two points behind their rivals, who start the weekend sitting second. If that isn’t a big enough incentive, what is?
Mane Absence A Big Blow For Klopp’s Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp arguably has a few more headaches than his counterpart, and his biggest issue will be filling the gap vacated by Sadio Mane. The former Saints man has been brilliant this term and signals a huge miss. On a brighter note for the visitors, however, star man Philippe Coutinho is back in action.
The Brazilian’s return should give Liverpool a far greater cutting edge as they look to bounce back from a disappointing week in the cup competitions. Klopp will be hopeful over Joel Matip and Jordan Henderson too as he looks to field the strongest side possible in this difficult trip.
Despite their poor cup showings, Liverpool’s league form has been strong. A draw at Sunderland was their first dropped points in five games while their overall away record includes six wins and 22 goals from 11 matches.
They certainly have nothing to fear against their fierce rivals, and know that a win would fire a huge signal of intent to their title rivals.
Manchester United v Liverpool Betting
With home advantage on their side, Manchester United are favourites to extend their run to 10 wins as 888sport price them 21/20 to grab the win. Liverpool shouldn’t be ruled out at 13/5, though, while others will be tempted by odds of 12/5 on the draw.
The first goal is important in any game, but it could be massive in this clash – especially if the home side get it. After winning nine games on the spin, they’d be more than confident of seeing out a lead, particularly with Mourinho on the sidelines.
Taking an early lead would settle the nerves and must surely be the aim for the Red Devils. We’re backing them to get it before the interval en route to a potentially crucial three points.
Following Mourinho’s battle cry, one thing we can expect is a vocal crowd. Referee Michael Oliver will be under pressure from the Old Trafford faithful, especially when Liverpool players commit fouls.
Given that the midfield battle is set to be crucial, it would be no surprise if a central midfielder is booked first. As an outside bet, we’re backing Emre Can to be that man.