Football

Manchester United vs Liverpool preview and line-ups

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One of the great games on the European football calendar is no longer the title decider it once was, and is now a crucial game in regards to who will make the top four.

United did the double over Liverpool last season, proving too clinical for their often wasteful neighbours in both games last season. These teams have changed a lot since then and this will be an intriguing clash at the Theatre of Dreams.

Both clubs have an alarming lack of width in their teams, and have suffered important injuries and suspensions in the lead up to the match.

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Philippe Coutinho was sent off last week for a poorly timed tackle on Dimitri Payet, meaning Liverpool have lost their most creative and arguably best player. Jordan Henderson, their newly appointed captain may also be missing due to a foot injury, so this is the time for the new signings to step up and show their worth.

Roberto Firmino, will in all probability take up Coutinho's place behind Benteke, he has shown glimpses of his undoubted talent in his brief appearances so far, including a left footed thunderbolt against West Ham which crashed agonisingly against the post. If he can play to his best he will undoubtedly be a thorn in Louis van Gaal's side. 

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Pressing

If Henderson is fit, he will inject some much needed energy and impetus into the Liverpool midfield that looked anaemic against West Ham. This game is going to be a midfield battle, with both sides very short on width this may come down to who can press the most effectively and in this instance, Liverpool may just come out on top.

Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger are undoubtedly top class midfielders, both with a great eye for a pass, but neither are suited to pressing the opposition midfield, with both liking to sit deep and set up the play from deep. This in comparison to a potential midfield four of James Milner, Emre Can, Lucas and Roberto Firmino who are not as technically proficient but with the exception of Lucas, much fitter and much more mobile.

However, if Liverpool don't press enough, the passing range of United will bring the likes of Memphis Depay and Wayne Rooney into the game and allow them to dominate the away side. At the other end of the pitch, Liverpool's midfielders still seem to be forming a relationship with Christian Benteke. The big Belgian seems to have settled into life at Anfield well and it will be intriguing to see how he works with Daniel Sturridge when the England man finally returns. 

For United, a big factor will be whether David de Gea returns and if he plays at the level we all know he is capable of, or if Van Gaal takes the conservative choice and sticks with Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero who was arguably at fault for both of Swansea's goals. Knowing Van Gaal, he will probably stick with Romero who's confidence may be lacking after the game in South Wales.

United will also in all probability be using the same shape that they have all season, playing a standard 4-2-3-1 with Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger sitting deep in midfield with Mata, Depay and Herrera ahead of them with Rooney playing as a lone striker.

Liverpool however, may change their formation after the loss of Coutinho and play a diamond formation with Lucas sitting deep and Milner and Henderson or Can on the sides with Firmino playing behind a front two of Christian Benteke and Danny Ings.

Defensive dilemma

The most intriguing question for Liverpool in this system however is whether to play Alberto Moreno or Joe Gomez. A narrow diamond relies on the wing backs coming forward to help the attack and with Gomez, a right footed centre back this simply won't happen on the left but he will defend well.

Moreno on the other hand is excellent in attack with his fantastic pace allowing him to pin opposition full backs in defence. However on the flip side his defensive positioning leaves a lot to be desired and this could as happened in the game at Anfield last year be taken advantage of. 

No matter the formation or personnel however this will in all probability be a rather cagey and bad tempered game and could be quite boring to watch.

Cliched as it is, whoever scores first will probably go on to win the game. If United score early, the 76,000 strong crowd will find their voice and it will be very hard for Liverpool to get back into the game, however if Liverpool either score early or hold United out for a long period, the crowd will get restless and impatient and Liverpool could take advantage of that.

Predicted Line-ups:

Manchester United: Romero, Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger, Depay, Herrera, Mata, Rooney

Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Gomez, Lucas, Can, Milner, Firmino, Benteke, Ings

Predicted score: 1-1

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Topics:
Football
Liverpool
Premier League
Manchester United

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