So you’re getting up early in the morning to watch Saturday’s early EPL kickoff at Anfield? Congratulations. You’re in good company. Premier League rivalries don’t get much bigger than the one between Liverpool and Manchester United.
Here’s a quickfire guide to everything you need to know ahead of the game.
+184 Manchester United
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This is the first clash between the two sides since January, when the pair shared the spoils during a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. The equivalent fixture at Anfield last season finished goalless, something Liverpool’s Brazilian duo of Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho will be keen to change.
Manchester United: WWDWWW
United have picked up seven more points than Liverpool so far this season, but the real difference is in the goals for and against columns. United have conceded just twice, while Liverpool have shipped 12 goals. The contrast in the sides’ goal difference (Liverpool’s +1 vs. United’s +19) shows you where the big issues are for the home side. Despite their attacking talent, Liverpool’s inability to keep them out at the back is a constant source of concern.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Both sides have big-city derby matches against neighboring rivals, but this particular matchup sits right up there as one of the biggest games of the season for both clubs. These two really don’t like each other, and the atmosphere in the stands will be crackling when the game kicks off.
WHO SAID WHAT?
Check out the pre-match press conferences from both managers as Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho faced the media ahead of this weekend’s match.
Jurgen Klopp: "We know we have to deliver"
Jose Mourinho: "We’ll play with nine strikers. Don’t worry about it!"
Both sides are missing a host of key players, with United the worst hit of the two.
Mourinho’s side will be without Marouane Fellaini after he sustained knee ligament damage while playing for Belgium in the week. Also missing for United are Michael Carrick, Phil Jones, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Liverpool’s biggest absentee is striker Sadio Mane, who injured his hamstring while on international duty with Senegal.
The good news for United is, although he sat out England’s game in midweek, defender Phil Jones should be back in the side to bolster the Red Devils’ defense with his own special brand of defending.
WHERE WILL THE MATCH BE WON (AND LOST)?
As in many of these big derby games, the battle will be won and lost in the middle of the field. Both sides are blessed with plenty of creativity, but it’ll come down to which of the two teams’ holding midfielders earns their skill players the chance to play.
Nemanja Matic is a solid presence in United’s lineup, while Ander Herrera is the perfect launch pad for United’s attacks. They’re likely to face Liverpool’s holding duo of Jordan Henderson and Emre Can in what looks set up to be a fascinating battle for midfield supremacy.
Whoever gets the better of that battle should hold sway as they look to provide service to the creative players playing in advanced areas.
THE MEN MOST LIKELY…
…to celebrate with his fingers in his ears: Romelu Lukaku
The big Belgian found himself in hot water in Beverly Hills when he was given a misdemeanor citation following a noise complaint at a house in which he was staying during the offseason.
Just before he headed off for international duty last week, he entered a plea of "not guilty" via his lawyer at an LA court.
Lukaku is the +420 favorite to open the scoring at Anfield, and if he adds to the 11 goals he’s scored already this season, you might just see a cheeky celebration. Look out for it.
…to get sent off: Nemanja Matic
United’s combative midfielder could find himself tied in knots by the lively Brazilian duo of Coutinho and Firmino, with both men happy to drop into deeper areas to receive the ball and run at defenses.
If the Serbian picks up an early booking, don’t be surprised if he ends up enjoying an early bath before the game’s done.
…to get booked for simulation: Ashley Young
No explanation needed here. Just as strikers are said to "know where the net is," Ashley certainly "knows where the floor is."
[Main image credit: Airviews Photography on Flickr]