Liverpool will renew hostilities with Manchester United at Anfield in the Premier League on Sunday, with both teams coming into his high-octane fixture on the back of contrasting form.
The Reds went top of the Premier League table following a 2-1 success over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park last weekend. The result against the Eagles made it three consecutive league wins for Jurgen Klopp’s side. However, they rounded off their Europa League group-stage campaign with a 2-1 defeat to Union Saint-Gilloise on Thursday evening, having made it to the last 32 on matchday five.
On the other hand, the Red Devils have had a torrid week after back-to-back defeats at home to Bournemouth and Bayern Munich saw them lose ground on top four and bow out of Europe completely. Having lost half of the club’s 24 games this season, Erik ten Hag is under immense pressure and hopes to release some by getting a result at Anfield.
With a mouthwatering clash on the cards, here are the three key battles on the pitch that could define the outcome of the game.
#Mohamed Salah vs Luke Shaw
Mohamed Salah has again been among Liverpool’s standout players, and with 14 goals and seven assists across all competitions so far, he will pose the biggest threat for Man United. The Egyptian has been sensational in attack, combining extremely with the midfielders and forwards. He added to his last weekend by scoring the equalising goal in the 2-1 away win over Crystal Palace in the Premier League.
It feels like the kind of game that Salah will be at the centre of, so Man United defenders have to be on their toes to keep him quiet. Erik ten Hag has confirmed that Luke Shaw has been passed fit to feature after being forced off with a suspected thigh problem against Bayern in midweek.
This should be a big boost for Man United as Shaw has made a difference to Ten Hag’s side since returning from an injury layoff. A reliable full-back both defensively and offensively, the England international will have the task of keeping Salah quiet. Given Shaw’s defensive diligence and positional awareness, Salah will need to be very sharp to get the better of the left-back.
#Scott McTominay vs Wataru Endo
Bruno Fernandes will be missing the game on Sunday due to suspension after picking his fifth yellow card of the Premier League season in Man United’s defeat to Bournemouth. In Fernandes’ absence, Ten Hag could use Scott McTominay in the No.10 position with Sofyan Amrabat and Kobbie Mainoo in the double pivot in the middle of the park.
McTominay is United’s top scorer with six goals, and the Scotland international’s late forays in the box and shooting from the edge could be a big threat for Liverpool, who would rely on Wataru Endo to do the dirty work in midfield.
In Alexis Mac Allister’s injury absence, Endo is expected to start in the No.6 role for the home side. The Japanese will have to be defensively alert if he intends to keep McTominay quiet. For United to stop Liverpool from playing their natural game, McTominay must contribute defensively and provide help to the defenders.
#Alejandro Garnacho vs Trent Alexander-Arnold
For Man United, Marcus Rashford is available for selection again after missing the midweek game against Bayern due to illness, but Ten Hag is expected to stick with Alejandro Garnacho on the left flank. The Argentinean international is exactly the kind of winger Trent Alexander-Arnold struggles against, someone who will pin him back and run at him with directness and full speed.
It is an open secret that Alexander-Arnold isn’t the best defender in 1v1 situations. The Englishman’s strengths are his technical abilities on the ball and set-piece prowess, which makes him such a key cog in Klopp’s system. On Sunday, the full-back will look to venture into midfield from where he can influence the tempo of the game.
It will be up to Garnacho to pin back Alexander-Arnold and stop him from inverting into midfield with his pace and dribbling skills. So, keeping the tricky Man United winger at bay will be a big test of Alexander-Arnold’s defensive credentials.
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.