Manchester United may have reigned supreme over great rival Liverpool in the Premier League era and won the last four league meetings between the pair, but it is the Merseysiders who go into Monday night’s eagerly anticipated clash at Anfield as solid favorites.
It has now been more than 26 years since Liverpool hoisted aloft the last of its 18 league titles. During that time its fierce foe in England’s North West has won 13 crowns to supersede Liverpool as the country’s most successful club. But under manager Jurgen Klopp there is belief once again at Anfield that Liverpool can at the very least make a real challenge for the top prize.
Liverpool will go into Monday’s showdown under the lights knowing that a win would put it level on points at the Premier League summit with Manchester City and Arsenal. Klopp’s men have won four games on the bounce, scoring an impressive 13 goals in the process. And, after a year in charge, the German’s squad now appears fully in sync with his devastating high-pressing, lighting attacking style. Still, Klopp believes everyone, including the crowd, will have to be at their best to emerge with a victory.
“We are in a good moment, they are not in that good a moment, but I can’t see a big difference with three points,” Klopp said in his pre-match press conference. “They have big, big quality in their team and we have to respect this.
“But, of course, it’s Anfield, we have to show this. We’ve had a few nice atmospheres since I got here but I am completely open for the best atmosphere and I am sure it would help, because we need everybody with a Liverpool shirt in this game. I’m looking forward to it, it’s exciting.”
Klopp can also count upon an impressive record in head-to-head battles with Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. In four previous encounters, Klopp has come out on top on three occasions, including in the Champions League semifinals of 2013, when Klopp was with Borussia Dortmund and Mourinho was in charge of Real Madrid.
Mourinho’s start at Old Trafford has thus far been a stuttering one. Three straight wins to begin the Premier League campaign have been followed by just one win in the last four matches to leave Manchester United down in seventh place. Defeat on Monday at Anfield, where United came off second best in last season’s Europa League, would leave the 20-time champions six points adrift of Liverpool.
For Mourinho, it will be his first experience of England’s grandest rivalry. But he insists in won’t be a season-defining contest.
“The season for me is not about the Anfield match and the Old Trafford match in January; the season is about many matches many points to win, many points to lose and targets to achieve,” he said.
In the buildup, Mourinho has also questioned the appointment of Anthony Taylor, who is based in Manchester, to referee the match, suggesting that his performance could be compromised by undue pressure.
The Portuguese does, though, have something to smile about with the return from injury of Luke Shaw and summer signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan. It means United’s only confirmed absentee is defender Phil Jones. Liverpool, meanwhile, has doubts over the fitness of midfielders Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Prediction: Liverpool has been imperious at the increased-capacity Anfield this season, dismissing champions Leicester City and Hull City by an aggregate score of 9-2. And certainly, Liverpool is currently in ruder health than Manchester United, even if Lallana and Wijnaldum would be significant absentees. Mourinho’s tactics, and whether he will simply attempt to slow Liverpool’s intense style, will be key to the contest. But, even if its defending still has questions hanging over it, Liverpool has the pace and greater fluidity in attack to come out on top.
Predicted Score: Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United
Kickoff Time: 3 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: NBCSN
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra