Sunday 15th January 16.00
Here we are, Round 2 of Merseyside v Manchester, the teams behind Red Monday, a match most of will remember by sheer dint of fact that we don’t remember it given how god-awfully turgid it was. Given their respective form since, it seems unlikely that we’ll be put through another dire, goal-free bore, especially as Jose Mourinho seems to have remembered that he was hired to coach and manage the most expensive football team in the world rather than engage in childish fits of pique and intrigue against faceless, nameless adversaries.
Brilliant Team Playing Well shocker
Given their early season struggles, United are now one of the form teams in the league, having won nine from nine in all competitions. Cleans sheets have become the rule rather than the exception and they scoring plenty of goals to boot. A closer look at the teams beaten will show that, Tottenham Hotspur aside, they all reside in the bottom half of the league. At this point we’re contractually obliged to point out that they can only beat the teams in front of them and that they have done. However, Liverpool are different kettle of fish altogether.
Denuded team not so hot
Or at least, they were. Not only did they drop points in their last league game (2-2 against Sunderland), they haven’t scored in their two (cup) games since. In fact, they lost 1-0 to Southampton midweek in the League Cup semi-final and were lucky the score line wasn’t heavier against them. So what are the problems? Well, it could be that they’re tired as a result of their high-intensity style of play. They have also lost Sadio Mane to the African Cup of Nations, Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip have been absent through injury and, as a result, their central defence and midfield have been compromised.
An inefficient German
The latter issue is best illustrated by the fact that Emre Can might start this game. The German has failed to build on his early promise at Liverpool and looks to be a liability for the team. He’s got an engine and an appetite for work but isn’t the sharpest of players mentally and Liverpool could really do with having the smarts of Adam Lallana in that position. Unfortunately, the loss of Mane and the coach’s lack of trust in Daniel Sturridge might see the diminutive playmaker further up the field, leaving the German to flail behind him.
Whereas confidence seems to be lacking somewhat in the Liverpool team at the moment, the opposite seems to be the case with Utd. Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are playing like everyone expected them to do, Henrikh Mkhitaryan Michael Carrick are surprising no-one, bar perhaps Mourinho with their displays. We won’t go on but suffice it to say, Utd are impressing as they should given the talent at their disposal. And that might mean trouble for Liverpool.
Looking good for Utd
Given their recent form, Mourinho is unlikely to be as negative as he was when last the two sides met (Red Monday, never forget) and Liverpool don’t seem to have the necessary tools or zip to effect their usual swashbuckling style. When their speed is compromised or negated, the drop in effectiveness when it comes to Plan B is quite marked. Even when they do have their speed up top, without Matip in defence they are extremely vulnerable, especially to high balls and you can bet your bottom dollar that Utd will pepper them throughout the match.
Were Liverpool to have their full squad available to the, this column would consider them to be slight favourites but shorn of some of their most important players and with Utd playing so well, the home side really should get the nod for a win in what will likely be a tight match. You can get Liverpool to win at a price of nearly 3/1 but the best price for a Utd match is a good deal shorter at 6/5 from BetVictor.