United host Liverpool as the race for second place takes centre stage

Last updated: March 7, 2018 by Leon Marshal

Game details

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Kick-off: Saturday, 12:30
Venue: Old Trafford
Coverage: Sky Sports 1
Home Team Form: LWLWW
Away Team Form: WDWWW
Last Meeting: Liverpool 0 – 0 Man Utd
Competition: Premier League

The battle for second place is encapsulated in Saturday’s early kick-off as second place Manchester United play third place rivals Liverpool. Despite both teams vying for the same prize – runners up to Manchester City in the Premier League and an assured Champions League spot for next year – two very different approaches to achieving that goal will be on show on Saturday.

Mourinho’s cautious, overly structured approach is in stark contrast to the fast, attacking, gegenpressing ethos espoused by his counterpart Jürgen Klopp. Which style will win remains to be seen. Recent results have shown that United can be beaten; Tottenham had great success by counter-pressing and attacking through their fullbacks, while United also crashed to defeat against Newcastle last month. Liverpool on the other hand have lost just once since October last year, suggesting the method to best dismantle them is not quite so clear.

Mourinho should be counting himself lucky that United start this match two points ahead of Liverpool. A last gasp winner rounded off a second half come back from two goals down against Palace last weekend to ensure United sit two points ahead of the visitors in second place. That means that a draw here would be the better result for the hosts. Mourinho was criticized for his approach when United made the trip to Liverpool back in October last year, as United set up to kill the game and succeeded with a goalless draw. Jürgen Klopp was quick to point out that his team wouldn’t and couldn’t play like that, especially at home, but now Mourinho must decide whether he should set up similarly in front of the United fans. Forcing his hand may be the fact that first choice defenders Phil Jones and Eric Bailly are unlikely to feature. Jones is injured, while Bailly is still regaining fitness after a lengthy absence. Of further concern is the Champions League knock-out fixture against Sevilla just three days after this match. United must win to go through, having drawn 0-0 in the reverse fixture. Having one eye on that match could have a huge impact on the outcome of this one, as Mourinho must look to save the energy of key players, especially as his squad contains a number of injured players.

A goalless draw on Tuesday night against Porto means Jürgen Klopp has no Champions League related worries. Having done the hardwork with a 5-0 win in the first leg in Porto, Liverpool played their second leg prior to this match. Despite having less rest than United in the run up to this one then, the result of the first leg meant that Klopp could rest key players. None of Liverpool’s deadly attacking three – Salah, Firmino and Mané – featured for more than an hour, with the main man Salah coming on for just the final twenty minutes. While those three have been taking all the glory, many have pointed out that it’s Liverpool’s fullbacks, namely Andrew Robertson, who has rightfully cemented a role in the starting lineup ahead of Alberto Moreno, who are doing much of the hard work to unlock opponents. Marauding runs from the wings, along with fulfilling defensive duties, have earned success at both ends for Liverpool domestically and in Europe. Mourinho will surely have a plan to nullify this, but Liverpool have danger men all over the pitch. Containing the pace and thrust from almost all areas of the field may be an impossible task.

Team News

Mourinho wasn’t happy with his central defensive pairing after conceding twice against Palace, but with Jones, Rojo, and Blind all still out, Smalling and Lindelöf may start again.

Mourinho will have one eye on United’s vital Champions League second leg match against Seville next week, meaning there could be lineup changes and rotation.

None of Liverpool’s deadly attacking trio played the full ninety against Porto on Tuesday, as Klopp looks to have them as fit as possible for this match.

Andrew Robertson was another who was rested on Tuesday night. The fullback has been instrumental to Liverpool’s play lately and will return to the starting lineup after doing more than enough to cement his place in the team.

Expected Line-Ups:

Man United (4-3-3): de Gea, A Valencia, Smalling, Lindelöf, Young, McTominay, Matic, Pogba, Lingard, R Lukaku, Sánchez
Subs: Bailly, Mata, Carrick, Rashford, Shaw, Darmian, Castro Pereira
Injured: Jones, Blind, Rojo, Fellaini, Herrera, Ibrahimovic
Doubtful: Martial
Not available:
Liverpool (4-3-3): Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henderson, Can, Salah, Firmino, Mané
Subs: Milner, Gomez, Moreno, Lallana, Mignolet, Solanke, Matip
Injured: Clyne
Doubtful: Wijnaldum, Henderson, Woodburn, Ings
Not available:

So Far This Season

. . .
Man United So Far This Season Liverpool So Far This Season
2nd League Position 3rd
11 (8) Wins (away) 9 (8)
4 – 0 vs. Stoke Biggest Win 5 – 1 vs. Brighton
2 (3) Draws (away) 6 (3)
0 – 2 vs Tottenham Biggest Defeat 0 – 5 vs Manchester City
Romelu Lukaku (24) Top Goal Scorer Mohamed Salah (24)
Y54, R1 Discipline Y35, R1
5 Failures to Score 4
15 Clean Sheets 12
37% Both Teams to Score Games 51%
55% Over 2.5 Goals 62%
45% Under 2.5 Goals 38%
  • United went to Liverpool back in October to play for the draw. They succeeded, keeping the game at 0-0. Mourinho may be criticized if he does the same here, but United have kept clean sheets in more than half of their games and a draw would be a better result for them.
  • Liverpool have two clean sheets in their last three and are much more settled at the back with van Dijk there, so with United hardly in scoring form, they may fancy their chances of keeping out the hosts.
  • That defensive resilience has seen just 37% of United’s game featuring both teams to score. Liverpool though are the second highest scoring team in the league and have blanked just once in their last eleven games.
  • Liverpool have lost just three games in the league this season, but all of them have come away from home. Aside from defeat against Swansea in January, their last defeat was way back in October 2017.

Head to Head

Last Five Competitive Meetings Between The Sides
Date Game Result Round First Goal-scorer
14/10/2017 Liverpool 0 – 0 Man United Premier League —‘
15/01/2017 Man United 1 – 1 Liverpool Premier League Milner 27′
17/10/2016 Liverpool 0 – 0 Man Utd Premier League
17/03/2016 Man United 1 – 1 Liverpool Europa League Martial 32′
10/03/2016 Liverpool 2 – 0 Man United Europa League Sturridge 20′

Conclusion & Betting Tips

This game is one of those rivalries where stats can often be thrown out the window, where the occasion conspires to get the best out of all the players. Add to the fact that Liverpool could leapfrog United into second with a win, while United could extend the gap between themselves and Liverpool in third place if they win, and we should have a real match on our hands.

This shows in the fact that all four of the last meetings between the two sides have finished in draws. It’s impossible to understate the importance of this match and that could lead to nothing separating the teams once again. Betting on draws is always risky, but you can get a great price of around 23/10 for the draw. Add both teams to score to that result and you can odds around 10/3. But, we’ll likely be playing it a little safer and going with over 1.5 goals. All ten of the last ten meetings between these two at Old Trafford have featured over 2.5 goals and with Liverpool in such fine scoring form, we expect at least two goals. You can get all these bets at Guts.