Many predicted that Manchester United would have a big year and those predictions seem to be coming true. I was one of them and while I am not a big fan of the club it is good to see them back, especially as they are playing exciting, attacking football. The same can be said for Liverpool, who have played beautiful football under Klopp, but who struggle with consistency.
This is a fixture where consistency and form goes out of the window, a game where spirit reigns supreme and raw talent shines through, because it’s a fierce north-west derby between two teams that hate each other and two teams that always manage to put on a good show. They also happen to be the two most decorated teams in English football and for the first time in years they both have a squad capable of finishing in the top three.
It’s hard to say how this one will turn out, but the one thing we can be sure about is that there will be fireworks.
Coutinho is going to make a huge difference to this Liverpool squad, but they can not rely on him too much. Not when other clubs know they are relying on him and will do all that they can to stop him. He is one of the few players in this league that can turn a game on its head in a heartbeat. He can have a terrible game and then win it all with a single touch and a moment of brilliance.
They will no doubt lose the Brazilian in January, but that’s okay, providing they get their use out of him before then. He showed what he was capable of in a single moment against Newcastle, but as that game also showed, you need a solid midfield and defense to get the moments.
Liverpool will likely be a different team after the upcoming window. There is talk of fringe players like Danny Ings leaving alongside Coutinho. When that happens I think they will spend big on a few midfielders and attackers and will look like a different team. I can also see Wijnaldum leaving, because he doesn’t seem to fit in. The fact that he has yet to score away from home is absurd for a player of his ability, but it’s proof that he doesn’t work in this system.
For this game they will look to Coutinho and Mane. I also think that they need someone like Alexander-Arnold or Robertson to step-up and play a blinder, because they are the fresh new faces that the United defense will have not prepared for, the players that can shake things up and get Liverpool the points. Coutinho will be bullied, Mane will be marked out, but those guys can work in the spaces and get the goals.
The Red Devils have been close to flawless this season, with big wins week-in week-out. Lukaku has been big part in that, of course, but they have also relied on players like Pogba and Matic to do the unsung work, finding the space, supplying the assists and winning those midfield battles that can turn a game around. We are still not seeing enough from many of the players that previous managers have brought in, players that received big paychecks but have yet to prove their worth, but they will get their chance this season.
This is actually a great game for anyone looking to impress. If you can play well and get your team a win away to a big rival then the fans will remember you fondly whatever happens. So, the likes of Martial and Rashford need to step-up and see this as a crucial, must-win game where they need to play their socks off.
Rashford especially, because while he had a great breakthrough season, he hasn’t done much since. He could be a star for the club and for his country, but if he continues to struggle in front of goal then he will end up on the bench for both.
United have been solid at the back this season but I think that a lot of that has come from midfield. The amount of work that Matic does is outstanding and he has been pivotal in keeping those clean sheets and in turning defense into attack. There are weak links in the United defense though and if Liverpool can keep Matic out of the game then they can exploit those weak links.
This is a tough one to predict. Liverpool will have a big home advantage and that’s usually key in a derby like this, but United will also play out of their skin and they have yet to lose a single game in the league so far this season.
On the one hand, Liverpool make more errors and have slipped up many times this season. I wouldn’t expect Man United to get such a lackluster 1-1 draw against Newcastle, for instance. Nor would I expect them to draw at home to Burnley. But derbies are a different kettle of fish and what has gone before is usually irrelevant.
When that is taken into consideration, along with the fact that Liverpool are at home and ready to humiliate their rivals, I think that this one will go to the Reds. So my tip is for a home win, albeit by a very slight margin.
Betting Tip: , 2.50 @ Skybet