Praise the end of the international break! Liverpool welcome Manchester United to Anfield on Monday night, with the word ‘welcome’ used quite wrongly. With that in mind, WhoScored.com have used their unique rating system to formulate a combined XI of Liverpool and United players to make more than five Premier League appearances this season…
David De Gea (WhoScored.com Rating 6.48)
David De Gea will hope to quickly move on from his gaffe that cost United all three points against Stoke prior to the international break. The Spaniard’s weak parry of a deflected Glen Johnson shot into the path of Jonathan Walters proved to be costly, with Joe Allen capitalising to equalise. Nevertheless, the goalkeeper remains one of the highest-rated in the Premier League, with ‘shot stopping’ one of his statistically calculated WhoScored.com strengths. That’s reinforced by the fact that only a handful of Premier League goalkeepers have made more saves from shots in the penalty area than De Gea (11) this season.
James Milner (7.45)
Alberto Moreno’s far from convincing start to the campaign in Liverpool’s 4-3 win at Arsenal saw him dropped from the starting XI and, without sufficient backup, Jurgen Klopp called on James Milner to fill the void. The former England international hasn’t disappointed, with a WhoScored.com rating of 7.45 among the best of all Liverpool players. He’s making the second most tackles per game (2.3) for Klopp’s side, while he is an effective attacking outlet having averaged 2.3 key passes per game – again, the second best of all Liverpool players – so far this season.
Daley Blind (7.69)
The general consensus at Manchester United was that Daley Blind would be fazed out of Old Trafford in the summer, but the Dutchman has started six of seven Premier League fixtures under Jose Mourinho and has impressed. Indeed, only Ahmed Elmohamady (38) has won possession in the defensive third more times than Blind (33) in England’s top tier. His versatility is a bonus for Mourinho, with two of his six league starts coming at left-back, but it’s his partnership with Eric Bailly that has earned the plaudits.
Eric Bailly (7.22)
Speaking of Bailly, it’s little shock to see the Ivorian feature given Liverpool’s lacklustre approach to defending. Bailly, a summer arrival from Villarreal, has impressed following his switch, boasting the necessary attributes to succeed in the Premier League. Forty-three tackles and interceptions combined ranks fourth among defenders in the top flight, reinforcing statistically calculated WhoScored.com strengths of ‘tackling’ and ‘ball interception’, while the 22-year-old ranks third for possession won in the defensive third (32). He’s rapidly endeared himself to United fans, with Monday’s trip to Anfield a true test of how far he’s come in such a short space of time.
Antonio Valencia (7.35)
Similar to Blind, few United fans expected Antonio Valencia to establish himself as a first choice right-back upon Mourinho’s arrival, but that he has. The 31-year-old has started all seven league games under the Portuguese boss this season and has made the most tackles (21) of players yet to be dribbled past in the Premier League this season. He’s hardly the perfect defender, but he’s proven to be an efficient performer in the United backline, with a willingness to press forward offering another dimension to the club’s attack. Valencia has completed the second most dribbles per game (1.7) of all United players.
Jordan Henderson (7.40)
For all of Jordan Henderson’s critics, the England international has established himself as a key man under Jurgen Klopp, with the Liverpool captain averaging more passes per game (84.1) than any other Premier League player. It’s not just his ball retention qualities that stand out, with Henderson having made the third most tackles (29) too. The 26-year-old is a key man for the Reds and his influence in the middle of the park will again be vital on Monday.
Paul Pogba (7.70)
Paul Pogba netted a stunning long-range drive to secure victory for France against the Netherlands on Monday night and he will hope to add to his one Premier League goal when domestic duties resume. Pogba has made a notable return to United as his WhoScored.com rating (7.70) suggests, despite missing some big chances. Only Stoke City’s Giannelli Imbula (3.5) is averaging more successful dribbles per game than Pogba (2.8) of all Premier League central midfielders. He’ll need to maximise these qualities against Liverpool, particularly with Klopp implementing a high intensity approach.
Philippe Coutinho (7.81)
Philippe Coutinho set the standard high for a strong season on the opening weekend, with his long-range free kick in the 4-3 win over Arsenal setting the Reds on their way to victory. The Brazilian’s willingness to go for goal means he has had the second most shots (29) in the Premier League this season, while only a handful of players have been directly involved in more goals than Coutinho (5 – 3 goals, 2 assists). He has, however, scored just one goal in six appearances against United, though it was a memorable solo strike.
Roberto Firmino (7.76)
It may have taken time for Roberto Firmino to adjust to his new surroundings, but the flamboyant Brazilian has begun to show just why Liverpool spent big to secure his services from Hoffenheim. Klopp has quickly turned the player’s fortunes around and the Reds are benefiting, with Firmino’s WhoScored.com rating (7.76) among the best in the league. With an eye for a pass, only Dusan Tadic (20) has played more key passes from open play than Firmino (19) in the Premier League and, having scored three goals in his last three top-flight outings, Firmino will look to prolong his goalscoring form in Monday night’s heavyweight bout.
Sadio Mane (8.02)
Having gained the third best WhoScored.com rating (8.02) in the Premier League this season, Sadio Mane is quickly proving his worth on Merseyside. An average of 3.8 dribbles per game ranks among the top five, with the winger’s directness improving Liverpool’s fortunes in the final third. The unpredictability to his play increases the club’s fluidity in front of goal, and opponents are struggling to contain the 24-year-old Senegal star, with Mane fouled an average of 2.5 times per game. Once he gains a head of steam, he’s a tough player to stop and Liverpool fans will be hoping he can continue his fine start to life for the Reds against United.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (7.41)
Having confirmed his move to United over the summer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic seemed to adjust to the rigours of Premier League football seamlessly. While his form has dipped – Ibrahimovic has now failed to score in his last three league outings and has just one goal to his name in his last six competitive appearances for the club – the charismatic 35-year-old remains an effective focal point to United’s attack. Only a handful of players have scored more top-flight goals than Ibrahimovic, he ranks joint-third for clear-cut chances created (3) and is top for shots (38). Monday night represents the ideal chance for Ibrahimovic to get back among the goals.