Sunday 22nd March – 13:30 – Anfield
Liverpool and Manchester United go head-to-head at Anfield on Sunday, in a game that could go a long way to determining which side secures a Champions League place. Brendan Rodgers’ side are in fantastic form of late, winning their last five Premier League games including important victories over Tottenham, Southampton and Manchester City. In fact the last time the Merseysiders suffered a league defeat was back in December at Old Trafford. Last weekend’s 3-0 win over Tottenham for United was widely acknowledged to be their best performance of the season, and was the perfect response to going out of the FA Cup to Arsenal the previous weekend. Louis van Gaal’s side have been in and around the top four all season and currently sit in fourth, but Liverpool’s recent form has seen that gap cut to just two points, meaning a win for the Reds will see them overtake their rivals. All in all, this sets up the tantalising prospect of two of English football’s giants going toe-to-toe at the top of their game.
The Key Battle: Jordan Henderson vs Michael Carrick
Jordan Henderson is necessarily known for his goalscoring abilities, but the midfielder has scored the opening goal in each of Liverpool’s last three Premier League games.
He is taking the role of vice-captain in his stride, and is looking like the perfect replacement for the departing Steven Gerrard, who he could keep out of the team on Sunday.
The 24 year old may well be Gerrard’s successor in the England team as well, and will be looking to impress Roy Hodgson after being named in the squad for the upcoming internationals.
Another Geordie midfielder who will be joining him for the Three Lions is Michael Carrick, who has earned a recall following a number of impressive performances, peaking against Tottenham last weekend.
In the 3-0 win over Mauricio Pochettino’s side, Carrick scored and assist a goal, and overall ran the game against his former club.
United’s midfield functions much better when Carrick is in it, and have taken 2.2 points per game when he has featured this season (15 games) compared to 1.6 without him.
- Midfielder Lucas Leiva is back in training after five weeks out with a groin injury but may not be ready to feature against United.
- Striker Mario Balotelli has recovered from the illness which saw him miss his side’s win over Swansea on Monday.
- Jordan Ibe remains sidelined, while Jon Flanagan is nearing consideration for first team duties having returned to training, along with Jose Enrique.
- Midfielder Angel Di Maria is available after a one-match ban but Jonny Evans is still suspended.
- Defenders Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo could return after injury but neither will be fit enough to start.
- An ankle injury keeps Robin van Persie sidelined, whilst fellow striker James Wilson is also out with a hamstring problem.
Liverpool wins = 60 / Manchester United wins = 69 / Draws = 45
Last Meeting: Manchester United 3-0 Liverpool (14th December 2014)
A clinical Manchester United side thrashed Liverpool as they capitalised on some poor defending to run out comfortable victors at Old Trafford. Red Devils captain Wayne Rooney gave them an early lead and Liverpool had every right to feel aggrieved when Juan Mata headed in from a clearly offside position to take the game away from them just before half-time. Robin van Persie’s third for United at the end of a lightning counter-attack only added to Liverpool’s pain and gave the scoreline a lopsided look given the amount of work done by De Gea.
Stat of the Match
Liverpool have gone 13 Premier League games without defeat; only Chelsea (14) have been on a longer run at some point this season.
Where can I watch it?
Sky Sports 1 are showing the game live from 12:30pm, with kick-off an hour later. Alternatively, you can watch the highlights on Match of the Day 2 at 10:30pm.
My Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United
The Reds are on a fantastic winning streak at the moment, and despite United’s recent upturn in form, Louis van Gaal’s side have often crumbled when up against teams on fire this season. They’ll fight Liverpool all the way at Anfield, but Brendan Rodgers will set his side to win from the off, and it should pay off. I think Raheem Sterling will score twice for the hosts, with Wayne Rooney hitting the back of the net for a United side that will end up disappointed.