Gary Neville has tipped Sunday’s clash at Old Trafford to be “like the Dog and Duck vs. the Red Lion.” In reality as Manchester United get ready to host Liverpool, it would be a psychologically a completely different game for both sides.
Liverpool and particularly Brendan Rodgers would be under major scrutiny after crashing out of the Champions League group stages, while Louis Van Gaal and his side will be looking to seal a sixth straight win and consolidate their third position in the Premier League standings.
United could deal a heavy blow to Liverpool’s top four charge and also garner revenge for last season’s double. As the ball is set to roll at Old Trafford this Sunday, we take a look at three of the talking points that could decide the outcome of this lip-smacking encounter:
Battle of the diamonds: Before we even talk of tactics ahead of this huge clash, Rodgers must look to get the team combination correct, even if it means taking some big decisions. Liverpool should line up in 4-4-2 diamond setup, with Steven Gerrard at the top of the formation playing just off Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana. Jordan Henderson must raise himself for the clash and his role of a ‘runner’ will be integral to Liverpool’s chances.
Van Gaal on the other hand could change from his 3-5-2 setup with a diamond formation too. United were listless throughout the 90 minutes against Southampton and were lucky to get the win at St Mary’s. With Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie up front, Juan Mata should play in the number ten role having Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera beside him.
Both side’s defensive frailties to decide outcome: There is absolutely no denying the fact, that despite a cagey encounter, the game shall produce goals. The key for both the sides would be to keep their defense tight and compact and not losing teh shape. Liverpool should make use of Coutinho and Sterling’s pace against the makeshift United full backs in Anton Valenci and Ashely Young.
Chris Smalling is also ruled out of the clash meaning Paddy McNair who had a horrible first 30 minutes against Southampton could start. Howver, United would be confident to stretch the Liverpool defense given Robin Van Persie’s form while Wayne Rooney has always been their go to man in big games.
Falcao to grace occasion or a new hero: Van Gaal has claimed that Colombian strker falcao is only fit to play 20 minutes in fast faced Premier League and still lacks match fitness to start a game. The 29 year old was an unused substitute against Southampton and is expected to start from the bench again on Sunday. However the United manager is well aware of what the striker is capable of.
With the game tied on an edge, Falcao is just the kind of player who could make the difference. The Liverpool defense have struggled to deal with the second balls throughout this season and who knows, the Colombian might be just make the proverbial difference with his predator like instincts.