Liverpool host Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday. The game is a vital one with both teams competing for a top 4 spot. Liverpool will be in a good mood after managing to draw the game against Arsenal in the dying minutes. Manchester United’s draw against Newcastle United is certainly an underwhelming result, especially since they squandered the lead, but the Manchester side would look at scoring three goals as a major positive.
Here are three key player battles that could shape the outcome of the game.
Mamadou Sakho vs Wayne Rooney
Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney has endured a disappointing campaign in the league but appears to have turned a corner in recent weeks. He has scored three goals and one assist in the last four games and his performance against Newcastle where he scored two and set up another would give him great confidence. This is certainly the best time for Rooney to turn around an underwhelming season as he looks to propel his side to a Champions League berth at the end of the campaign.
Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho will be entrusted with the task of keeping the England captain quiet. The hosts are undergoing an injury crisis that has forced Klopp to sign Steven Caulker on loan but would be grateful that the former PSG man is fit for this tough fixture. Sakho has not performed too well in recent weeks, and needs to be on top of his game to ensure Rooney’s disappointing affair with Anfield continues.
Roberto Firmino vs Chris Smalling
Firmino has begun to prove his doubters wrong courtesy of a splendid performance against Arsenal where he scored twice and came close a couple more times. The Brazilian could once again lead the line since Christian Benteke hasn’t performed well in recent weeks and Liverpool don’t have any other fit strikers. With Coutinho out, the onus on Firmino to perform is even more. The former Hoffenheim man would certainly be Liverpool’s key in unlocking the Manchester United defence and get all three points against their arch-rivals.
Chris Smalling is doing superbly at the back for United but didn’t enjoy the best of games against Newcastle. He has to quickly make amends as there is a need for him to be extra careful to combat the threat of Firmino who has performed very well in big games for his side and has scored against Chelsea, Manchester City and now Arsenal.
Alberto Moreno vs Anthony Martial
Anthony Martial started the season superbly for his new side and scored a great goal on his debut against Liverpool at Old Trafford and would have fond memories of facing the Merseyside outfit. The 20-year-old has been used by Van Gaal on the flanks in recent weeks and has done well in stretching out the attack for his side. Alberto Moreno will have the task of patrolling the left-flank and considering van Gaal used Martial on the right side of attack against Newcastle, Moreno will have to deal with Martial. While the Liverpool man is expected to spend more time defending, it is well known that he loves going forward so Martial may have to track back a fair bit and help his side to deal with the full-back’s attacking threat.