Liverpool and Manchester United lock horns, in what is expected to be an enterprising affair on Monday. Three points separate the two sides and they have had contrasting fortunes with Liverpool eking out four consecutive wins while Manchester United have managed just two wins in their last five games and go into the game on the back of an uninspiring draw against Stoke City at home.
However, like the previous battles between the teams, none of that will be important when the two sides take the field on Monday evening, with each willing to go to any extent to ensure they come out on top of their fiercest rivals.
There have been five meetings between the enigmatic Jurgen Klopp and theJose Mourinho in the past with Klopp coming out on top with three wins compared to Mourinho’s solitary victory and the German will be keen to see that record better itself on the evening. With a lot to look forward to in the game, we have come up with three key battles that could determine the result of the game.
Also read: Liverpool vs Manchester United: Combined XI
Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs Joel Matip
Two new signings who have already had an instant impact on their respective sides, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Joel Matip go head to head in the evening, hoping to come out on top. While Zlatan has continued with his goal scoring prowess in England, netting on four occasions in seven Premier League outings, Matip has lent some much-needed muscle to the Liverpool defence with his calm performances for the Reds.
However, it is no secret that Liverpool can be horrific in defence when it is not their day and the side has shown a tendency to concede from set-pieces and Zlatan’s instincts in front of the goal and his aerial prowess could prove to be a handful for the Liverpool defenders.
Given the deficiencies, Mourinho could set up his side to play from wide positions, rather than the centre that Liverpool like to pack with numerous midfielders and Zlatan, who is expected to lead the line-up yet again could prove to be a valuable asset on the evening.
Matip, on the other hand, has dished out impressive performances over Champions Leicester and Chelsea and will be keen to repay his manager’s faith in him by leading the defence towards a tidy performance. Unafraid to tackle and usually superior in the air, Matip seems like Liverpool’s best bet at stopping the likes of Zlatan, especially with his expected partner Dejan Lovren’s erratic nature and would need to keep his head on the shoulder to come out on top.
Jordan Henderson vs Paul Pogba
One man, who seems to be redeeming himself in the current season is Jordan Henderson. Deployed in a much deeper role by Klopp, Henderson has shielded his defence well and yet has also added to the attack of his side through his playmaking abilities.
The Liverpool captain has been frequently breaking play with a combination of tackles, interceptions and harmless fouls and he has the huge responsibility of containing the creative instincts that lie in the Manchester United midfield. Henderson has also recorded the highest number of passes in the league so far and has led his side with relentless performances in the middle of the park.
However, life is not expected to be easy for the former Sunderland man, with the world’s most expensive player Paul Pogba lining up opposite him. While Pogba has not had a perfect start to his second stint at the club, there is no denying his abilities and how dangerous he can be when he gets going, as demonstrated in his imperious performance against Leicester City.
In what can be deemed good news, Pogba is already finding his feet at the club and should be looking ahead to one of the toughest battles against the Merseysiders. The Frenchman possesses the ability to take the game by the scruff of the neck and turn it around in his team’s fortunes and the United faithful will be hoping he does that against their fiercest rivals.
With emotions running high, the battle between the two star midfielders would need to stick to the task being allotted to them by their respective managers. Two athletic midfielders who give it their all, the battle between Henderson and Pogba could largely determine the course of the game and that makes it the most intriguing battle to watch out from the game.
Roberto Firmino vs Eric Bailly
The athletic, tenacious figure of Eric Bailly has won the hearts of millions of United fans with his performances during his short tenure at the club. The Ivory Coast international, who made the big money move to Old Trafford in the summer from Villarreal has already established himself as a key figure under Jose Mourinho and seems irreplaceable at the club.
Bailly has been successful going into tackles and has also won most of his aerial duels (Won 14 out of 24 tackles and 7 of the 13 aerial duels he entered into) and seems to be enjoying his time at the club. However, what has impressed us most is his understanding of the game. He has made 25 interceptions, which is an indication of his footballing intelligence and has shown positional discipline to frustrate the opposition.
However, in Roberto Firmino, he has a wily customer who could leave him for the dead in an eye blink. The Brazilian has been excellent under Klopp and has been in sensational form featuring as his side’s false nine. He has created chances at will alongside the magical Phillipe Coutinho (he has created 20 chances in 7 league appearances) and has also scored four goals in all competitions to add to his credentials as one of the top attackers in the league.
The Brazilian will be keen to work his magic in the attacking third and given his abilities on and off the ball, he is the most vital attacking player in the current Liverpool side and we are keen to find out who comes out on top in this contest between the pace and physicality of Bailly and skill and flair of Firmino.
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