Coutinho v Mata: Which star comes out on top in five key categories?

Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Manchester United’s Juan Mata face off on Sunday.

Liverpool host Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday in undoubtedly the most intriguing Premier League fixture of the weekend.

The two sides are separated by just two points and with the upcoming encounter likely to have a huge impact on the race for a top-four spot, it is one of the biggest clashes in recent years.

United head in to the match on the back of a 3-0 win over fellow top-four rivals Tottenham Hotspur, whereas the Reds are the clear form team having won five on the spin and going 13 league games unbeaten.

Goals are expected, and as such a key battle between playmakers Philippe Coutinho and Spanish international Juan Mata – if selected – could prove the difference on Merseyside.

  Goals per GameShots per GameKey Passes per GameTake-ons per GameTouches per GameAccurate Passes per GameBall Recoveries per GameAppearances
Juan Mata 0.21 0.83 1.29 0.38 50 36.17 3.79 24
Philippe Coutinho 0.15 2.5 1.46 2.73 61.88 33.04 5.27 26

According to the table provided by Opta Stats, the two attacking midfielders are key in providing the necessary creative spark in the final third but one clearly comes out on top – Philippe Coutinho.

Over the course of the season, Mata has found the net on average more times than his rival but the Reds ace has contributed more in as many as five other key attacking categories.

The Brazilian has recorded 2.5 shots, 1.46 key passes and 2.73 successful dribbles on average per Premier League fixture.

Aside from his attacking qualities, one area where Coutinho continues to shine is his willingness to track back and put pressure on the opposition, exemplified by his average 5.27 ball recoveries per match.

Mata in contrast has his own qualities - his ball retention and vision being as good as any other in England - yet there is an underlying belief that he has struggled to adapt under Louis van Gaal.

The Red Devils will need their best players to show up on Sunday, as anything less could see a rampant Reds side led by the likes of Coutinho and Sterling take a huge stride in the race for a top four spot.

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