Liverpool vs Man Utd – Analysis, Prediction, Team News
Sunday 5th March 2023
As part of our weekend Premier League predictions, we look at the derby match between Liverpool and Man Utd. While United are the PLs in form team over the last 10, Liverpool have a good home record. Stalemate? Read on with our Liverpool vs Man Utd prediction.
Liverpool vs Man Utd Match Preview
For this 239th edition of the Liverpool vs Man Utd derby, Liverpool appear to be in slightly better shape of late than in the previous couple of months. While Klopp’s men are still not the swashbuckling, high-pressing team of the last five years, points on the board is of paramount concern at this stage in the season and 10 points from a possible 12 was a welcome panacea. Perhaps the most welcome sign for Liverpool supporters is that they’ve now kept four clean sheets in their last four Premier League outings, though for the most part, the opposition has been far from stellar.
This improved mini-run of form has left the Merseysiders six points adrift of fourth-placed Spurs, but crucially with a game in hand. With approximately one-third of the season to play, and Spurs and Newcastle displaying similar inconsistencies, Liverpool will be justifiably targeting a Champions League place that may have seemed unlikely just a few short weeks ago. Though a lot of work needs to be done between now and the end of the season to make that a reality, the last four games represent a positive start. Only a fool would bet against Liverpool challenging for a Champions League spot, even with their well-documented problems.
Manchester United play their first Premier League match in a fortnight fresh from a highly entertaining 4-3 aggregate win over Barcelona in the Europa League and a 2-0 EFL Cup final victory over Newcastle United last weekend. While the club is certainly headed in the right direction, they do remain 11 points adrift of Arsenal albeit with a game in hand. Though a return to Champions League football appears to be a distinct possibility, there’s still much work to be done, even accounting for the fact that United are the in-form team in the Premier League over the last 10 matches.
Perhaps it’s fairer to omit their disastrous start to the season if we’re to judge what kind of progress the club is making, and in that respect, they’ve been as consistent as anybody. Over the last 20 Premier League matches, the Red Devils are second in the table with 43 points, two points behind Arsenal but one point ahead of Manchester City. Frankly, though Ten Hag’s managerial credentials were certainly impressive prior to his appointment at Old Trafford, there were many who could have been forgiven for thinking that getting United into the Champions League next season was too large a project for anybody. This match at Anfield serves as another test to examine how far they’ve come.
Injuries and Suspensions
Might Not Play: Arthur, Gomez, Keita
Will Not Play: Diaz, Ramsay, Thiago
Might Not Play: Sancho, Shaw
Will Not Play: Eriksen, Martial, Van de Beek
Liverpool vs Man Utd Lineups (Predicted)
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Robertson, Matip, Van Dijk, Alexander-Arnold; Fabinho, Bajcetic, Henderson; Salah, Gakpo, Nunez
Man Utd (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Shaw, Varane, Martinez, Dalot; Casemiro, Fred; Rashford, Fernandes, Sancho; Weghorst
Liverpool vs Man Utd Analysis
Liverpool’s Directness Could Pay Dividends
The best way to get at this Manchester United side appears to be to attack them in transition at pace. The reason for this is quite simple – though we have seen players such as Rashford, Fernandes and recently Jadon Sancho putting in improved defensive work in addition to their attacking threats, they’re still not the best at regrouping and defending once possession is lost. Wout Weghorst is a welcome addition in that respect, but the fact remains that recently the likes of Leicester, Leeds and, curiously, Barcelona have all had success at ‘getting at’ United’s backline when they’ve had the bravery to get forward in numbers.
That Barcelona under Xavi were content to have 50-something percent possession of the ball over their two Europa League matches demonstrates that at times they realised a more direct approach was needed. With the superb addition of Casemiro and a tougher central defensive unit in Varane and Martinez, taking your time in possession and waiting for mistakes doesn’t appear to be the optimal approach. Manchester City went 1-0 up against United with this approach but Grealish’s goal was their only strike on target throughout the match. In order to create multiple opportunities against United, you need to attack with pace and purpose.
This doesn’t mean long-ball football. Arsenal showcased the value of being direct against Manchester United. In a highly entertaining encounter from both sides, they were relentless in their positivity on the ball as they realised that’s where the space would be. Figuring out how to create space and exploit it is of paramount importance in football, and Arteta’s men realised that this space is available in transition because United don’t have the best pressing unit at the moment.
So how does this benefit Liverpool? Liverpool are particularly dangerous when this space appears, and it’s likely that United will be far less passive than they were in recent visits to Anfield. While we know that Liverpool have been fairly easy to play through themselves, United can and do find themselves reeling back towards goal sometimes because three of their four attackers are very attack-minded. While Bruno Fernandes seems to be improving a fair bit in this area of his game, it’s still something of a weakness and any team that can call upon Salah, Nunez and Gakpo is going to be a threat in transition.
Liverpool’s Defensive Weaknesses
Although we made it clear that Liverpool have improved a bit in this respect with four consecutive clean sheets, it’s important to look at the circumstances surrounding this run. Wolves and Everton are both struggling for goals this season, Newcastle were down to 10 men for 70 minutes and Liverpool were too passive against Crystal Palace in which both sides ended the contest with less than 1 xG apiece. This means that despite this recent improvement in defence, we should remain somewhat sceptical – particularly in light of the five goals Real Madrid put past them in the Champions League.
It would be a mistake to assume that Liverpool’s issues at the back are purely a function of a poor back four and goalkeeper. While individual mistakes have certainly contributed to Liverpool’s downfall on a fair few occasions this season, it has been apparent for a while that their midfield unit can no longer provide the back four with the kind of protection that they were able to when this Liverpool side was at its peak. While some of their younger first team members such as Bajcetic and Elliot are developing nicely, they’re not yet at the required level for the most part.
This places tremendous strain on Liverpool in various ways. Apart from the obvious ability of their opponents to effectively ‘play through’ the midfield area giving them another avenue of attack, it inhibits the ability of Robertson and Alexander-Arnold to make their forays forward as they haven’t been adequately covered when doing so. Alexander-Arnold has suffered from this lack of protection more than anybody in the squad.
Not renowned for being a particularly proficient defender despite his array of attacking qualities, Alexander-Arnold’s positional lapses weren’t a problem previously and were even encouraged by Jurgen Klopp as he adds another dimension to their attack. Now it’s a costly problem for them to solve. Virgil van Dijk’s recent return to the side will provide some added assurance, but it’s incumbent upon Liverpool in this match to ensure that Fabinho and Henderson both remain disciplined to supplement the defence and attempt to shut down Fernandes in the middle and Rashford who likes to cut in from the left-hand side.
While the public perception seems to be that United are on top of the World again, and Liverpool are down in the doldrums, we feel the situation is a little more nuanced than that. It’s true that United are primed to take advantage of teams who are weak at defending in transition. On the other hand, so are Liverpool, despite their struggles at times this season. United haven’t quite managed to defend from the front as they would like to on a consistent basis and can be prone to conceding territory, particularly as a match wears on.
Therefore, it seems logical to conclude that provided both sets of players bring their shooting boots, we can expect a fiercely contested match with plenty of goals in the offing. We don’t expect United to retreat and play almost a low block as they did against Man City; we think they’ll set up more as they did against Barcelona and Arsenal. With their recent improvement, we back them to do better than they did at the Emirates, but not to come away with the victory. We anticipate a highly entertaining draw.
Liverpool 2-2 Man Utd
Liverpool vs Man Utd Betting Tip – Draw Odds:
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