PRE­DICT AND WIN

The Mercury - - FRONT PAGE -

LIVERPOO and Manch­ester United’s globe-trot­ting squads must shake off the ef­fects of in­ter­na­tional duty for one of English foot­ball’s most ea­gerly-an­tic­i­pated clashes to­mor­row.

Ac­cord­ing to Sky Sports, their play­ers clocked up 139 000 miles tak­ing part in World Cup qual­i­fiers since the last Premier League ac­tion, but all roads lead to An­field as the English top flight re­sumes after a twoweek hia­tus with a po­ten­tial cracker.

The stop­page was bad­ly­timed for United, who won their last three Premier League games with nine goals scored and none con­ceded, al­beit against sides in the lower half of the ta­ble.

Jose Mour­inho’s side, joint lead­ers on 19 points from seven games with Manch­ester City, will hope to con­tinue that mo­men­tum in what will be their big­gest test of the sea­son to date.

Liver­pool’s form has been less im­pres­sive and Juer­gen Klopp’s side, be­set by de­fen­sive prob­lems, are seven points off the sear­ing pace be­ing set by the two Manch­ester ri­vals.

They are also with­out a Premier League vic­tory over bit­ter ad­ver­saries United in their last six meet­ings, but Mour­inho says re­cent his­tory will have no bear­ing to­mor­row. “These kind of matches, every sin­gle mo­ment plays a part,” Mour­inho told Sky Sports. “We are play­ing against a good team with very good play­ers. Form doesn’t mat­ter, the mo­ment doesn’t mat­ter. It’s a match of three points.”

United will be miss­ing mid­fielder Marouane Fel­laini, who hurt his knee play­ing for Bel­gium against Bos­nia, while Paul Pogba is still ab­sent with an in­jury.

Liver­pool have a po­ten­tially more sig­nif­i­cant ab­sen­tee, how­ever, with for­ward Sa­dio Mane fac­ing a six-week lay­off after in­jur­ing his ham­string rep­re­sent­ing Sene­gal.

United have been stun­ning so far. Ex­ploit­ing a kind early sea­son sched­ule, United have scored four goals in six of their 11 games.

It’s time to find out if that at­tack­ing ap­proach is here to stay now the fix­tures are stiff­en­ing for Jose Mour­inho’s team.

Among their next four games in the English Premier League, United faces Liver­pool, Tot­ten­ham and Chelsea – sides which will be likely con­tenders for the ti­tle and Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

An­field was the scene of prob­a­bly United’s most neg­a­tive and de­fen­sive per­for­mance last sea­son. It was a clas­sic con­tain­ing game plan by Mour­inho and it made for an un­der­whelm­ing match. Some la­belled it a be­trayal of United’s at­tack­ing her­itage, es­pe­cially on the back of three con­sec­u­tive off-sea­sons of heavy spend­ing. Oth­ers said it was an en­tirely sen­si­ble ploy given that Liver­pool had English soc­cer’s most pro­lific at­tack at the time.

Mour­inho couldn’t really care less, rel­ish­ing the fact his side sti­fled what he called, some­what tongue in cheek, “the last won­der of the world in at­tack­ing foot­ball”.

In away games against the Premier League top five (Chelsea, Tot­ten­ham, Manch­ester City, Liver­pool, Ar­se­nal) last sea­son, United col­lected two points and scored just once.

In his sec­ond sea­son at United and hav­ing stamped more of his au­thor­ity on the team, Mour­inho has many won­der­ing whether he’ll take a more pos­i­tive ap­proach into games against his big ri­vals.

“Do I like to go to An­field? Yes, I love it. Do I like to play against Liver­pool? Yes,” said Mour­inho, who has won 11 of his 25 games against Liver­pool as a man­ager.

“I like… the best op­po­nents, but the prepa­ra­tion is not dif­fer­ent. It’s just a match.”

Cer­tainly, there is scope for United to have suc­cess if they did at­tack more. Only two teams in the league have con­ceded more than the 12 goals given up by Liver­pool, while United is the sec­ond-high­est scor­ing team with 21 from seven league games — just one be­hind first-place Manch­ester City.

PIC­TURE: SHEL­LEY KJONSTAD

Chairman of the of­fi­cial Liver­pool FC Sup­port­ers Club in KZN Li­nus Naik and Pu­ven­dra Akkiah, mem­ber of the SA Reds Manch­ester United fan club, face off ahead of to­mor­row’s big show­down be­tween the arch-ri­vals. The Mer­cury is run­ning a com­pe­ti­tion where, if you cor­rectly pre­dict the score, you could win a two-night stay for two at the Wild Coast Sun in­clud­ing break­fast. For the com­pe­ti­tion de­tails, visit and like @TheMer­curySA Face­book page.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.