- English soccer’s ‘Big Two’ clash at Anfield on Sunday
- Liverpool lead the EPL by 14 points and are champions ‘elect’
- Man Utd still chasing a place in the top four
It was once the biggest rivalry in English soccer. Some argue it still is. But in recent years the balance of power has shifted away from Manchester and across to Merseyside. No longer do they go head-to-head as equals but that will count for nothing at Anfield on Sunday (January 19, KO 11:30 am EST) when Liverpool entertain Manchester United.
A comfortable win over Norwich last weekend has secured the short-term future of United manager Ole Gunnar Solkjaer, whose team are struggling to make top four, but Liverpool have rather bigger fish to fry as they close in on their first league title since 1990. The Reds of Merseyside start as odds-on favorites but we’ll take a look to see if there’s value to be had elsewhere.
Liverpool vs Manchester Utd Odds
|Liverpool||-1, -1.5 (-106)||-227||O 3 (+115)|
|Manchester United||+1, +1.5 (-114)||+560||U 3 (-135)|
All odds taken Jan. 15
Solskjaer Still on Thin Ice
United’s easy win over Norwich may have given them, and Solskjaer in particular, a timely boost – especially as they had some key players missing – but Liverpool will offer an altogether different challenge as Jurgen Klopp’s men look to go a whole season unbeaten.
One factor in United’s favor is that they are the only team to have taken points off Liverpool in the league this season; the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford being the only blemish on the Reds’ otherwise perfect record. It could have been even better for United but for a late Adam Lallana equalizer after Marcus Rashford had given United a first-half lead.
But United go into the game off the back of a fairly rotten run of form – the Norwich win aside – and have won just the once in their last four. Liverpool, by contrast, have an air of invincibility and are finding ways to win even when they’re not playing at their best. They are EPL champions-elect and are playing like a team that knows it’s when not if.
There is also the small matter of Liverpool being undefeated in over 50 games at Anfield, their unbeaten run stretching back to April 2017 when they were beaten 2-1 by Crystal Palace. So there is no doubting the size of the task that awaits Solskjaer’s team.
Victor Lindelöf (76.92%) and Harry Maguire (71.13%) rank 1st and 10th respectively in defensive duels won from centre backs in the Premier League this season. pic.twitter.com/mMhEyrdrlt
— UtdArena. (@utdarena) January 12, 2020
United have plenty to fear, not least a Liverpool strike force that has been relentless and caused huge problems for every defense they have come up against. Key for United will be how Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are able to handle the movement and rotation of Mane, Salah and Firmino. Only if they can manage that successfully will they give themselves a chance.
Liverpool vs Man Utd Head-to-Head
|20/21||No. of EPL wins in 2019/20 / No. of games played||9 / 22|
|1||No. of EPL defeats||6|
|1st||Position in EPL||5th|
|50 / 2.38||Goals scored / Per game||36 / 1.64|
|331 / 131||Shots / Shots on target||324 / 127|
|14 / 0.67||Goals conceded / Per game||25 / 1.14|
|12,871 / 613||Completed passes / Per game||11,112 / 505|
Liverpool’s Outstanding Fullbacks
Also crucial will be how United full-backs Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams cope with their opposite numbers, because the attacking and creative threat posed by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson is the heartbeat of this Liverpool team. The Reds have a solid, workmanlike midfield that rarely loses a physical battle but Klopp looks to his two outstanding fullbacks to provide the ammunition for Salah and co.
Liverpool, unsurprisingly, come out on top in most head-to-head stats (above) but oddly there is little to choose between the two in teams in shots and shots on target, but Klopp’s men are so much more clinical in front of goal. With 50 goals from 331 shots, their conversion ration of 15.1% is significantly better than United’s 11.1% and is clearly a key factor in the Reds’ outstanding season. Even more reason therefore that United’s defense is on its mettle.
United to Prosper on the Counter-Attack?
United’s strength is their ability to counter with pace and with Klopp’s preference of pushing his fullbacks high, this could leave space for Anthony Martial and Ben James to exploit. Sadly for United, it looks likely that Marcus Rashford will miss out due to picking up a back injury in their midweek FA Cup win over Wolves, which is a significant blow.
Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba will be also be missing but Jesse Lingard is expected to be available again after recovering from illness. For Liverpool, Fabinho is available again but James Milner and Naby Keita both miss out through injury, while Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren are also struggling to make it.
?️ Ole on Rashford being fit to play Liverpool:
"He's a quick healer & he'll play through some pain, definitely, if he's capable, if it's not a bad, bad injury.
— Fanzine (@Fanzinecom) January 16, 2020
It’s hard to make a solid case for a United win – although +560 is hugely tempting – but they will be boosted from holding Liverpool in the reverse fixture and some solid defending, especially early on, will permit United the chance to exploit the Reds on the break.
I see United maybe getting themselves an early lead but eventually getting worn down by Liverpool’s relentlessness, so a bet on both sides scoring looks like value, even at -110. The draw is also worthy of consideration at +350 but I see Klopp’s men having just too much.
Pick: Liverpool to win 2-1 (+700)