Manchester United are the favourites to beat Liverpool at Old Trafford today but here are three players who could make a difference for the visitors today.
The biggest match of the Premier League weekend sees Manchester United and Liverpool reunite their rivalry at Old Trafford in this evening’s 17.30 kickoff.
Both sides went into the international break with surprise defeats – United blowing a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 at Swansea City whilst Liverpool were thrashed 3-0 at home by West Ham United.
Louis van Gaal scored a 100% win record over Brendan Rodgers last season, winning this fixture 3-0 shortly before Christmas. His side head into today’s game in much better shape than the Reds with only Phil Jones ruled out.
Liverpool will be without Philippe Coutinho (suspended), Daniel Sturridge, Joe Allen and Jon Flanagan (all injured), whilst both Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson remain doubtful.
Manchester United could also welcome back David de Gea for the first time this season having agreed a new £200,000-a-week, four-year contract at Old Trafford on Friday.
If Liverpool are to get a result against their rivals today, here are three players who will need to be at the top of their game:
Wayne Rooney may be without a goal in the Premier League this season but the Liverpool defence certainly can’t take their eyes off the United captain. Rooney is a goalscorer and it’s a matter of time before he opens his account this season.
Whilst Martin Škrtel will be focussed on Rooney, outside of him will be Memphis Depay making runs in behind the defence.
The Dutch forward could be one of United’s keys to opening the Liverpool defence today. The 21-year-old has made some very clever runs in between the right-back and central defender in his early days as a United player and the only thing that has been missing so far is his finishing.
Depay too will open his account in a matter of time and that could be as early as today if Škrtel and Nathaniel Clyne aren’t at their best.
Philippe Coutinho’s suspension takes away a lot of Liverpool’s creativity and attacking threat based on their start to the 2015-16 season. The Brazilian has already had 18 attempts on goal in his first four games of the season, whilst Christian Benteke is next in line with only 10 by comparison.
Roberto Firmino has made two starts under Brendan Rodgers since his big money move from 1899 Hoffenheim in the summer and whilst it’s been a quiet start today is a good opportunity for the Brazilian to make an impact.
Firmino has been lined up down the right wing which means he’s likely to face Luke Shaw today unless Rodgers changes his tactics. Both of Swansea’s goals in United’s last game came from down that side. Shaw himself loves bombing forward but doesn’t always bust a gut to get back.
Liverpool should look to feed their playmaker down the right wing should Shaw give up space down that side again today.
Juan Mata scored three of the five goals that Manchester United scored past Liverpool last season and the Spaniard remains one of the top players in Louis van Gaal’s side.
The Spaniard plays down the right wing so will be up against youngster Joe Gomez. Gomez has received a yellow card in three of his first four games in a Liverpool shirt and Mata can certainly draw fouls off the 18-year-old.
Not just winning free kicks though, Mata himself will be a goalscoring threat in open play today as well as creating chances from both the right wing and when he cuts in field.
Gomez will be tasked with keeping the United playmaker quiet but no doubt will need to receive help from one of the three central midfielders when Mata drifts in field. No United player has created more chances than the Spaniard through four games. He’s also scored a goal – the only other goals van Gaal’s side have registered this season have come from Adnan Januzaj and a Kyle Walker own goal.
Matteo Darmian’s overlapping runs will be another threat for Gomez to deal with.