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Manchester United have been awesome but untested in the 2017-18 Premier League season, though that will change on Saturday when they head to Anfield to take on bitter rivals Liverpool.
Jose Mourinho’s team have won six and drawn one of their opening seven matches, playing the type of physical and incisive football you’d expect from his sides. Still, United have yet to meet any of their title rivals, with this tussle with Liverpool marking the start of a much more testing run of fixtures.
As for Liverpool, a stuttering beginning to the season will look like a much more accomplished one if they can win here. And based on Jurgen Klopp’s record in the big games as Reds boss, it would be unwise to write them off despite some recent issues.
When these two collide the football world sits up and takes notice. Here’s the latest team news ahead of the game, the vital viewing details and a preview of one of the biggest events on the sporting calendar.
Date: Saturday, October 14
Time: 12:30 p.m. (BST)/7:30 a.m. (ET)
TV Info: Sky Sports Main Event (UK), NBC Sports (US)
Sky Go: Sky Go (UK), NBC Sports App (US)
Liverpool: The big blow for Klopp in the buildup to this game is the absence of Sadio Mane, who is set to spend six weeks on the sidelines due to a hamstring problem. Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana are both long-term absentees.
Likely XI: Simon Mignolet; Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Alberto Moreno; Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, Giorginio Wijnaldum; Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho
Manchester United: The Red Devils look a little light in midfield with Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba both injured. Losing such combativeness may prompt Mourinho into adding energy elsewhere in the team, potentially in the form of the effervescent Jesse Lingard.
Likely XI: David De Gea; Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Matteo Darmian; Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic; Jesse Lingard, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford; Romelu Lukaku
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Last season Mane was the man who drove Liverpool on in plenty of these massive games, so the news he will miss this encounter is a massive disappointment for the Reds.
Though there’s spades of attacking quality elsewhere, Mane’s ability to mesh power, pace and panache is unmatched in the squad. Even so, having splashed out on the attacking part of their squad in the summer, Kristian Walsh of the Liverpool Echo called on others to step up:
Kristian Walsh @Kristian_Walsh
Mane huge blow for #LFC obviously but this is why you spend £35m on Oxlade-Chamberlain, surely? If he can’t get a run now, when does he?
Given how he’s struggled early in the campaign, it would be a surprise if Klopp turned to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain here, but there are players in the squad who can unsettle what has looked a rock-solid United defence so far this term.
Coutinho is one, as he’s been sensational since being drafted into the team again, netting excellent goals against Leicester City, Spartak Moscow and Newcastle United recently. Salah has been a shining light in the final third, too.
Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images
He’ll be in brilliant spirits having sent his country to the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a last-gasp penalty during the international break. As noted by BT Sport Football, he’s enjoyed a blistering start to his Liverpool career:
BT Sport Football @btsportfootball
Mo Salah has scored six goals in his first nine games for Liverpool in all competitions…
The visitors lead 1-0 🔴 https://t.co/JUdBVU4TXa
If any team is capable of dealing with the threat posed by Liverpool, it’s United. After all, defensively they’ve been mean this term, while Mourinho is a coach capable of getting 11 players through any game of football with a clean sheet intact.
He too has injury issues to cope with. No Fellaini and no Pogba robs him of two huge assets in the centre of midfield, while the physical presence of both would have been so effective against a Liverpool team renowned for set-piece frailty.
Even so, there’s depth in this United team, and journalist Liam Canning expects a big performance from Herrera in this one:
Liam Canning @LiamPaulCanning
Ander Herrera is set to step into midfield this weekend, given Pogba and Fellaini’s injuries. He is fantastic in big games. Great pride.
There will also be an onus on Lukaku to continue his goalscoring form and dispel suggestions that he can go missing on the biggest stage.
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Given his previous history as an Everton player and now the United No. 9, he’ll come in for plenty of stick on Saturday. But, as noted by journalist Colin Millar, given his current potency in front of goal, it would be a surprise to see his confidence knocked:
Colin Millar @Millar_Colin
Romelu Lukaku now with 15 goals in 12 starts for club and country this season.
Although both teams have attacking talent in abundance, this one is likely to be a cagey affair, as each would benefit from taking a point from the game.
Expect Liverpool to start quickly and pressure their opponents before United work their way into the game. It’ll be up for grabs late on, and given the Red Devils’ superior options on the bench and the home side’s defensive problems, one chance maybe all that’s needed for United to steal the three points.
Prediction: Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United