Manchester United face the first real test of their Premier League title ambitions, as Red Devils visit Anfield to face their arc rivals, Liverpool on Saturday.
United occupy second in the table – level on points with leaders, Manchester City – after a superb start to the season, winning six of their seven opening games and scoring 21 goals in the process.
But Jose Mourinho’s side is yet to face any other realistic title contenders, and Liverpool will be desperate to make a statement against the Red Devils.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have been thrilling and infuriating in equal measure, with the brilliance of Liverpool’s attack being hamstrung by a soft defence to sit seven points off the pace.
Still, form counts for little whenever United head to Anfield, and Liverpool know a win in their famous ground against Mourinho’s men will send a message to the rest of the top flight.
Sadio Mane returned from a domestic suspension against Newcastle, but was unable to lead Liverpool to a win at St James’ Park.
Roberto Firmino was left out against the Magpies, but will likely start against United.
Some respect must be paid to Liverpool’s attacking potency and record in these games, though. Jurgen Klopp’s team tend to relish these occasions, as Arsenal found out earlier in the campaign when they were beaten 4-0 by the Merseyside outfit.
The problem for Klopp this season has been finding a blend between attack and defence, something United have located with ease under Mourinho. With that in mind, expect a focused, combative and clinical Red Devils team to eventually find a way to win this one.
Philippe Coutinho reportedly wanted to leave the club during the summer, but there’s no doubt Coutinho has been exceptional since being forced to stay on Merseyside. The gifted No. 10 has been gliding effortlessly between the lines, linking Liverpool’s attacking moves together with deft touches, intelligent movement and quick thinking.
Coutinho has also reminded everyone of his considerable shooting power from distance. After striking a superb free-kick to help beat Leicester City 3-2, the Brazilian again proved lethal from long range to earn a point against Newcastle United.
His goal against the Magpies earned Coutinho a distinction among players in England’s top flight, per Sky Sports Statto:
Coutinho’s shooting power will play a vital role in breaking down a likely deep-sitting United rearguard. The Red Devils earned a point from this fixture last season after a dour goalless draw. United very very defensive to stymie Liverpool then, but Coutinho’s movement and quick-strike capability will ensure goals this time.
Mourinho is still set to be without Paul Pogba after confirming that he thinks of the midfielder as a “long-term” injury problem, while Marouane Fellaini will also miss out after damaging his knee ligaments on international duty for Belgium.
Fellow Belgian Romelu Lukaku will likely recover from an ankle problem in time to face Liverpool.
With United lacking the height of Fellaini and Pogba, Mourinho could be tempted to play a three-man defence, bring Ander Herrera into midfield for added security before throwing on the likes of Anthony Martial to make an impact in the second half.
Elsewhere, league leaders Manchester City host Stoke City on Saturday, while Arsenal travel to Watford in what should be an entertaining evening game.
DO YOU KNOW?
- James McClean scored in three different 2018 WC qualifiers for the Republic of Ireland & netted the winner on each occasion.
- This victory means that Republic of Ireland ended the 2018 World Cup qualifiers unbeaten away from home (W3 D2 L0).
- In the other two 2018 World Cup qualifiers that James McClean has scored in, he’s netted the winning goal.
- Shane Long hasn’t scored in any of his last 24 apps for club & country; a run spanning 19 hours & 30 mins and 32 shots.
- Harry Kane has scored 43 goals in 37 games for club & country in 2017 so far, averaging a goal every 72 minutes.
- Leigh Griffiths has been involved in seven goals in his last five internationals for Scotland (four goals, three assists).
- Harry Kane has scored 15 goals in his last 10 matches in all competitions for club and country.
- Scotland haven’t lost any of their last six matches (W4 D2), they last went seven games without defeat in April 1997.
- England has only lost one of their last 31 away games on Sunday (W19 D11), a 1-0 defeat to Mexico in June 1985.
- Liverpool’s games have seen more goals than any other @premierleague side since Jurgen Klopp took charge (F146 A94).
- Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 97 goals in his 101 competitive games since the start of 2016 (Real Madrid and � �).
- Bristol Rovers have scored six goals in a Football League away game for the first time since August 2000 (6-2 v Brentford).
- Ben Whiteman’s hat-trick for Doncaster against Southend was scored in just 10 minutes and 34 seconds.
- Charlie Wyke’s goal was his first from outside the box since Aug 2015; his previous 43 in all comps came inside the penalty area.
- MK Dons’ Aaron Tshibola has received the fastest red card in League One this season (after 261 seconds).
- Ireland have scored four goals in the opening five minutes of games in 2018 WC qualifying; the most of any European side.
Liverpool starting XI: Mignolet; A.Arnold, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Can, Henderon, Coutinho; Salah, Mane, Firmino
Man Utd starting XI: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Bailly, Smalling, Blind Herrera, Matic, Mkhitaryan, Rashford,Lukaku.
Klopp’s record against Mourinho
P W D L GF GA
7 3 3 1 12 8
Liverpool v Man Utd
Man City v Stoke
Swansea v Huddersfield
Burnley v West Ham
C/Palace v Chelsea
Tottenham v Bo’mouth
Watford v Arsenal
Brighton v Everton
S’ampton v Newcastle
Espanyol v Levante
Athletic v Sevilla
Getafe v Real Madrid
Alavés v Sociedad
Atlético v Barcelona
Eibar v Deportivo
Girona v Villarreal
Málaga v Leganés
Real Betis v Valencia
Stuttgart v Köln
Hoffenheim v Augsburg
Bayern v Freiburg
Hannover v Frankfurt
Mainz 05 v Hamburger
Hertha v Schalke
Dortmund v Leipzig
Leverkusen v Wolfsburg
Bremen v M’gladbach
Juventus v Lazio
Roma v Napoli
Fiorentina v Udinese
Sampdoria v Atalanta
Bologna v SPAL
Sassuolo v Chievo
Crotone v Torino
Cagliari v Genoa
Inter v Milan
Verona v Benevento
Lyon v Monaco
Dijon v PSG
Lille v Troyes
Caen v Angers
Guingamp v Rennes
St-Étienne v Metz
Toulouse v Amiens
Bordeaux v Nantes
Montpellier v Nice
Strasbourg v Marseille