Nothing delights football fans more than the return of club football. Despite an exhilarating end to world cup qualifying, it’s no different this time around. The highlight of the weekend’s action will be in England as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool host Manchester United. The two arch-rivals will take on each other at Anfield on Saturday in an early kickoff.
Liverpool and Manchester United are the two most successful sides in English football history. Between each other, they share 38 domestic league titles and 8 European cups. For years it was the rivalry that dominated English football. In spite of both having rough periods off late, this context continues to possess its steam. Fans on either side still vividly remember the rigorous battles they have had in the past, to assert themselves as kings of the land. Sir Alex Ferguson’s hatred for Liverpool describes the significance of this rivalry better than anything.
The two teams have played each other 226 times in history. Out of these contests, 87 matches were won by United while 75 were won by the Merseyside team. The other 64 matches ended in draws. Under current managers Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp the two teams have played each other twice with both games ending in stalemates.
The two sides have had contrasting starts to the Arsenal. While on one hand, Manchester United have been dominating and relentless, Liverpool has only managed three wins in the seven games so far. The story has been similar in other competitions with Mourinho’s side winning both their games in the Champions League, Klopp’s team has played out two draws. Unlike Liverpool, Manchester United have also progressed to the next round of the league cup.
It’s no secret that defending isn’t the strongest suit of Jurgen Klopp’s side. Their defending is evidently nowhere near the level that one desires of a top team. It is an area that Mourinho will be well aware that he can expose. It’s an area of the game where over the last 2 years things have only got worse for the reds. On the other hand, Manchester United as expected of a Jose Mourinho side has been extremely solid defensively. Don’t be surprised if this difference in characters turns out to be a defining factor.
While Liverpool’s attacking potency and style is well documented, Manchester United have also been a very efficient team upfront this season. Mourinho’s men have hit Four goals in four league matches so far this season. This will be a battle of two teams with distinct style yet ones which are very formidable in breaching oppositions defenses.
Despite all of Liverpool’s struggles, they are a different side in big matches. Jurgen Klopp’s system works in a way that functions best against the bigger teams. This is evident by the fact that despite their slow start to the season, they thrashed Arsenal 4-0. Last season, they did not lose to a single opponent from the top 6.
On the other hand, Mourinho is a master of big matches. There is not a person one would want to oversee your team over him for a single match. Despite this, things weren’t as rosy for him in his first season at Old Trafford. He could only take 10 points against the big 6, which was the second worse record in the league. One knows this was only an abbreviation for Mourinho like Liverpool’s 5-0 thrashing against City last month. Which manager has his A game on the day and is able to handle the pressure of the occasion better, will ultimately triumph.
Liverpool has been hit a huge blow in the last few days with star forward Sadio Mane being ruled out for 6 weeks. It remains to be seen whether Klopp chooses to use Coutinho further forward or one of Daniel Sturridge and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain outwide. Adam Lallana and Nathaniel continue to miss out.
Manchester United lost Marouane Fellaini over the international break which is a big blow due to the absence of Carrick and Pogba. These lack of midfield options could force Jose Mourinho to a formation change to maintain their pragmatism. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rojo remain sidelined with their ACL injuries.
Liverpool- Mignolet, TAA, Klavan, Lovern, Moreno, Can, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Coutinho, Salah, Firmino.
Manchester United- De Gea, Valencia, Baily, Jones, Smalling, Young, Herrera, Matic, Mkhitaryan, Rashford, Lukaku.
Spain- Atletico Madrid v Barcelona
Italy- Inter Milan v AC Milan
Germany- Borussia Dortmund vs RB Leipzig