Johannesburg - Manchester United appear to be holding all the aces ahead of their Premier League clash with Liverpool on Saturday.
Granted, the thinking goes that, under Jürgen Klopp, the Merseysiders do better against the bigger teams. Yet, in the German’s time in charge, this hasn’t proved to be the case against the Red Devils.
In fact, it is pretty much honours even with a win apiece and three draws in five matches since Klopp arrived at Anfield in October 2015.
Yes, his Liverpool side have shown an appetite against the bigger clubs, with the record against Tottenham Hotspur proving the case – played five, won two and drawn three.
Against Manchester City, it is also in evidence, with three victories, two losses and a draw, though last month’s 5-0 mauling at the Etihad would have shaken confidence.
Against Arsenal, Klopp’s record is comprehensively dominant – three wins and a draw with 14 goals being scored against the Gunners. Even against Chelsea, the Reds have a slight advantage with two wins, two draws and a loss under their bespectacled manager from Stuttgart.
However, against José Mourinho’s rampant United outfit, it is honours even. In a sense then, Saturday’s clash at Anfield represents more a tale of two teams with contrasting fortunes this season.
Mourinho’s men have a goal difference of plus 19, having scored four goals in a league match on four occasions.
Meanwhile, Liverpool’s bumbling defence is perhaps football’s worst kept secret.
With 12 goals against in seven matches, only West Ham United and bottom club Crystal Palace have worse records. A tendency to concede cheap goals has haunted them throughout this year, with the likes of Dejan Lovren, Ragnar Klavan and Joël Matip particularly culpable.
Confusion in central defence led to a late equaliser by Miguel Britos for Watford in the 3-3 draw in early August. Burnley’s Scott Arfield also benefited from confusion between Matip and Klavan to score in September 16’s 1-1 draw.
In the club’s last match before the Fifa break, Newcastle United’s Joselu also took advantage of charitable defending as he beat a gapingly open offside trap to fortuitously score from Matip’s attempted clearance off his leg.
Therefore, it is apparent that Man United arrive at Anfield holding all the aces. Romelu Lukaku has matched Andy Cole’s record of scoring in seven EPL games in a row. Anthony Martial is taking the role of super sub to another level with three goals in six.
This is while the likes of Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini also chip in with goals. Take into account that Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino will only arrive back late from international duty with Brazil just two days before the game, and it is seemingly advantage to the visitors.
Spirit and resolve
Indeed, Martial, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Ashley Young will all be rested after not being selected by their countries, while Phil Jones also missed out for England with a minor knock. In addition, Mourinho asked that Rashford be rested for the Three Lions clash with Lithuania.Nevertheless, there is no doubting the big match temperament of Liverpool on the huge occasions when it really counts, as their record against Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City shows. That famous night in 2005 against AC Milan when they roared back from 3-0 down to win the Uefa Champions League also gives an account of the spirit and resolve that still lingers at the club.
It seems they will need every ounce of heart and fight if they are to stop a rampaging Man United in their tracks and breathe new life into their season. – TEAMtalk Media