Liverpool welcome bitter rivals Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday in the Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have suffered an indifferent campaign and lie sixth in the table. They beat Wolves 2-0 in midweek at home in their last league game and are looking to continue their late-season push for a Champions League spot.
Man United, on the other hand, are sitting 10 points ahead of Liverpool in third place and head to Anfield on the back of a 3-1 win over West Ham in the FA Cup. Buoyed by their League Cup triumph last month, Erik ten Hag’s men will be confident of getting their first win in Merseyside for more than seven years.
Without further ado, let us take a look at the key battles that could define the outcome of this mouthwatering Premier League clash.
#Marcus Rashford vs Trent Alexander-Arnold
Marcus Rashford is arguably the most in-form player in Europe and seems to have firmly reignited the fire in his belly post-World Cup. He has been ruthless in front of goal this season, registering 14 goals in 24 league fixtures so far.
The English forward’s exploits in the final third has played a significant role in Man United’s success under Ten Hag this term. Thus, keeping Rashford quiet in attack is a tough task, as he’s tricky and can use his blistering pace to run a team’s defence ragged.
Trent Alexander-Arnold will have to avoid making constant overlapping runs if he intends to keep Rashford at bay. The Liverpool right-back has often been criticised for his lack of defensive ability and positional awareness, so he will no doubt be keen to prove his critics wrong by stopping one of Europe’s most devastating players on Sunday.
#Casemiro vs Jordan Henderson
Casemiro has been a revelation for Man United since joining from Real Madrid last summer and helped his team win the Carabao Cup by beating Newcastle United 2-0 last weekend. With him dictating the tempo of play from midfield, Ten Hag’s side have been brilliant to watch.
The Brazilian has been a serial winner in his career, and his winning mentality and big-game experience could be key in helping United win at Anfield over seven years. So, Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson must take responsibility for suppressing Casemiro’s supreme qualities.
Henderson’s performance levels have dipped mightily this season, resulting in him being in and out of the team. With Liverpool keeping four successive clean sheets in the league, the England international should be in a buoyant mood going into the game against Casemiro and United.
#Mohamed Salah vs Luke Shaw
Mohamed Salah has been Liverpool’s standout player amidst their struggles this season, scoring nine goals and registering five assists in 24 league games.
The Egyptian has not been at his best this term, but he remains Liverpool’s chief source of goals. He scored in the 2-0 win over Wolves in midweek which should have lifted his confidence ahead of the clash with Man United.
The player likely tasked with negating Salah’s influence will be Luke Shaw, who should be fit on Sunday after sitting out the FA Cup game tie against West Ham with a small injury. Shaw has been one of the players to have improved significantly under Ten Hag, and his presence at left-back should help United be more defensively resolute.
Wary of Salah’s ability to come up with match-defining moments, Shaw must produce his A game to keep the Liverpool forward at arm’s length from the United goal.
#Wout Weghorst vs Vigil van Dijk
At the other end of the pitch, Ten Hag will no doubt be desperate for Wout Weghorst to exploit Liverpool’s defensive frailties.
Since arriving on loan from Burnley in January, Weghorst has started every match for United which proves that despite not scoring a single Premier League goal so far, he is a crucial part of Ten Hag’s team. Primarily a striker, he has been tactically used as a No.10 in certain games and the move from Ten Hag has worked wonders.
Virgil van Dijk must look to track Weghorst’s movement and stop him from linking play with the likes of Rashford and Fernandes. The Liverpool defender has the physicality and aerial prowess to challenge the towering United striker, meaning this battle between the two Dutch players will be interesting to watch.
I am Rohan Sengupta from one of the busiest cities in India, Mumbai. A Journalism graduate with a keen interest in sports, football is something I simply cannot live without and writing, discussing and analyzing the game is what I do 24*7.