4-3-3: Liverpool Strongest Xl vs Man Utd – Coutinho Returns, But Will Sturridge Start?

The biggest game of the weekend and part two of Merseyside vs Manchester sees Manchester United host Liverpool in the Northwest Derby.

As the title race heats up, every point becomes crucial and none more so than against a rival also trying to ignite a title challenge of their own. Manchester United are arguably the in-form team in the Premier League, having won their last six consecutive matches and will be hoping to claim all three points against their Northwest rivals Liverpool when they visit Old Trafford. WIth the two teams separated by five points, it’s important for the Reds that they maintain this distance whilst keeping pace with Chelsea. Anything less than three points will likely see them slip out of second place for the time being.

LAST TIME OUT

Southampton 1-0 LIVERPOOL

Last season saw the Reds defeat the Saints at St. Mary’s Stadium 6-1 in the cup and were hoping for the the same again. However, what they got was the complete opposite as Nathan Redmond’s strike after 20 minutes was enough to give the South Coast club the advantage. It was an uncharacteristically poor performance from Liverpool and one they’re keen to put behind them coming into Sunday’s crucial match.

MANCHESTER UNITED 2-0 Hull City

Unlike Liverpool, Manchester United showed exactly how to win a cup tie and give themselevs every opportunity of going to Wembley once again for another cup final. Juan Mata put the hosts in front before Marouane Fellaini rounded things off with a header to seal the first leg victory. Wayne Rooney was unable to find the net and remains equal with Sir Bobby Robson’s 249 goals.

Manchester United Lineup

Top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be assessed after missing the EFL Cup semi-final tie with Hull through illness, whilst Marcos Rojo could return. Eric Bailly is away at the AFCON, however.

Liverpool Lineup

Philippe Coutinho could make his first league appearance since November, but Jurgen Klopp may also be without Joel Matip and Jordan Henderson, who are struggling with ankle and heel injuries respectively. Sadie Mane is on international duty. After a good performance midweek, Loris Karius could retain his place in goal.  Daniel Sturridge doesn’t often start three matches in a row and may be replaced in attack by Divock Origi. Loris Karius has started in Liverpool’s last two matches and was the main reason why Liverpool only lost 1-0 on Wednesday night but as league action resumes, Simon Mignolet could return between the sticks.

KEYS TO THE GAME

A change of plan from Mourinho

In the reverse fixture, United drew 0-0 against a free-scoring Liverpool and it was an absolute Mourinho masterclass. However, with the home crowd in full voice, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on United to be much more adventurous and ambitious in attack. It could work well against a vulnerable Liverpool backline, but it could also leave them exposed to the counter-attack as Liverpool can so expertly prove. Will a change in gameplan pay dividends?

Mata and Ibrahimovic

These thwo players have been in instrumental form and need to keep this up. Juan Mata has had a hand in five goals in his last four appearances against Liverpool in the Premier League, scoring three and assisting two, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic has 13 goals in his first 19 Premier League appearances for Manchester United – the same record as Dwight Yorke and Robin van Persie. The only player to score more in their first 19 PL apps for the Red Devils was Ruud van Nistelrooy (15).

Lallana to make a difference?

Who would of though that one of Liverpool’s best players would be former Southampton midfiedler Adam Lallana. Lallana has been involved in 14 Premier League goals this season (seven goals, seven assists); more than any other English player. Will he be the key to unlock the United defence?

PREDICTION: Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool

Liverpool have lost 11 of their last 14 visits to Old Trafford in the Premier League, winning the other three and Liverpool have lost more Premier League matches (27) and also the most overall league matches (67) against Manchester United than versus any other opponent. However, i have a feeling that this will be one of those ‘big matches’ that ends with a stalemate. Mourinho is likely to exercise a bit of caution and his side have been very defensively solid in the last few weeks.

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