It’s derby time on Sunday afternoon, with Liverpool welcoming big rivals Manchester United at Anfield in, probably, the most anticipating match of the season.
Although both clubs have been rather inconsistent so far, their encounters have always been interesting and full of intensity.
The Reds are coming off a 3-3 draw against league leaders Arsenal at home, thanks to an injury-time strike from Joe Allen. Jurgen Klopp’s squad is currently ninth on the table and wants to fight for a place within the top four.
On the other hand, the Red Devils failed to beat Newcastle (3-3), however they seem to have gained some momentum lately, while also had an extra day off.
With the side playing very badly in December, the back-to-back wins against Swansea and Sheffield United, respectively, in the first days of 2016, have boosted the club’s confidence.
Luis Van Gaal, though, is under huge pressure, as he knows a defeat on Sunday can lead to his contract being immediately terminated, as United have won only once in the last eight league games.
For his part, Klopp is still trying to improve Liverpool’s playing style, but, certainly, things are better since he took over, especially offensively.
Based on his favourite gegenpressing, the German has managed to maintain his team’s energy at high levels, a situation that has helped the Reds score many goals, especially on the counter attack.
However, his players have failed to capitalise, when they are the favourites (namely against Watford and Newcastle), so they will need to be more proactive in Sunday’s game.
In addition, Liverpool has to significantly improve their defensive stability and concentration, if they want to fight not only for the win against the Red Devils, but also for a place within the top four.
The presence of Roberto Firmino will be vital for the hosts, as he has created a decent duo with Christian Benteke and is capable of changing the momentum during the game.
On the other hand, Manchester United’s captain, Wayne Rooney, is in great form lately, having scored four times in the last three games in all competitions, as he seems to have made a better start in 2016, after scoring six EPL goals in 2015. Consequently, his performance will be a key factor for his squad.
Ahead of Sunday’s clash, both managers have to deal with many problems and injuries. More specifically, Liverpool will certainly play without Martin Skrtel, Divock Origi, key playmaker Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, while Dejan Lovren still struggles for fitness.
For United, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nick Powell will not be available to play, however defender Phil Jones may make his return to action, with Juan Mata probably being in the starting squad, after dropping to the bench against Newcastle.
Regarding their previous battles, Manchester United have won six of the last eight Premier League meetings with Liverpool and two of the last four at Anfield, while the reverse fixture at Old Trafford saw the Red Devils beating the Reds 3-1, so Liverpool will certainly have extra motivation.
At the end, with United currently being sixth and Liverpool ninth in the standings, both clubs will fight tooth and nail for the victory in this match, which can be the beginning of an assault on a top four finish. One way or another, an exciting showdown is expected.