Liverpool will look to move one step closer to the Premier League title when they host Manchester United at Anfield in this weekend’s glamour tie.
Jürgen Klopp’s side are unbeaten in the Premier League for over a year since suffering a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City last January, but United have proven themselves capable of springing a surprise this term and have the chance to end suggestions their arch-rivals could complete an ‘Invincible’ season early.
Liverpool v Man Utd: Team News
🔴 TEAM NEWS 🔴
Our line-up to face @ManUtd 👊
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 19, 2020
🚨 TEAM NEWS 🚨
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 19, 2020
The Squawka Talker football podcast team of Jake Entwistle, Muhammad Butt, Oli Young-Myles and Will Hall assembled to make some predictions for Sunday’s game. You can listen to them all right here (remember to subscribe, rate and review if you like what you hear):
Or you can read all about them below, starting with…
1. Liverpool back-up’s ball-carrying skills will land Man Utd’s midfield in trouble
Listen from: START – 00:09:20
Fabinho returned to training this week following a two-month lay-off with an ankle injury. But it would go against type for Klopp to rush the Brazilian back for such a big match, particularly when Liverpool have coped well in his absence.
Consequently, Jordan Henderson is expected to retain his place at the base of Liverpool’s midfield, with Georginio Wijnaldum also locked in on the left of the midfield trio.
On the right, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana are vying for a place and both players possess similar ball-carrying qualities that could cause problems to United’s expected midfield double pivot of Fred and Nemanja Matic.
Fred, in particular, could struggle, as on average he gets dribbled past, according to Opta data, 3.45 times per 90 minutes. That means the Brazilian is getting beaten more frequently than any other regularly-starting Premier League midfielder.
And since the start of the 2016/17 season, Liverpool have won their highest number of fouls against Manchester United at Anfield, while the second-highest number of fouls is against the same opponents at Old Trafford.
Incidentally, Sunday’s referee is Craig Pawson, who booked four Manchester United players in their 2-2 draw v Villa, one of whom was Fred.
2. Trent Alexander-Arnold will do what he does best
Listen from: 00:19:00 – 00:32:57
Trent Alexander-Arnold picked up the Premier League Player of the Month award for his virtuoso displays in December, the pick of which was in Liverpool’s 4-0 demolition of Leicester in which he provided two assists and scored a goal.
The 21-year-old is a supreme attacking force and has been virtually unstoppable this season. Only Kevin De Bruyne (76) and Emiliano Buendia (64) have created more chances in the Premier League than Alexander-Arnold (60) while Manchester City‘s brilliant Belgian is the only player with more assists (14-8).
Liverpool’s No.66 has provided a constant stream of chances for his teammates on the right flank, creating, on average, 2.9 chances per game. That return is significantly more than any other defender in Europe’s top five leagues with Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich (2.5) closest to him. Even then, 11 of Kimmich’s 17 Bundesliga outings have been from central midfield.
With Marcus Rashford having failed to recover in time to feature at Anfield, United will be shorn of their key attacking weapon and Alexander-Arnold will not have to face a player he has previously called his ‘toughest opponent’. A Rashford-less United team only raises the prospect of Alexander-Arnold adding to his eight league assists this weekend.
3. Liverpool left to stew in a nervous half-time interval
Listen from: 00:32:57 – 00:38:58
Jake thinks United will take a slender into the break but believes Liverpool possess the firepower and mental strength to turn things around in the second period.
There is a two-sided explanation that underpins his theory. Firstly, only Aston Villa (13), Norwich (14) and West Ham (15) have dropped more points from winning positions than Manchester United (12) in the league this season.
Furthermore, only Wolves (15), Arsenal and Leicester (both 11) have won more points from losing positions than Liverpool (10), who have played a game less than their Premier League rivals.
4. Liverpool 3-1 Man Utd
Listen from: 00:38:58 – END
Of the four guests on this week’s Squawka Talker podcast, three predicted a Liverpool victory.
Both Jake and Oli have backed a Liverpool win with both teams to score, the former predicting a 2-1 success for the Reds and the latter a 3-1 win, as was the case in the corresponding fixture last season.
Will also fancies Liverpool to win but only by a single goal, while Muhammad thinks that not only will Liverpool’s 38-game unbeaten streak in the league come to an end, but so too will their 51-game streak at Anfield. He’s gone for a 1-0 victory for the visitors.