Liver­pool brace for United test

Club seek to ex­tend win­ning streak in to­mor­row’s clash

Weekend Witness - - Sport -

JOSÉ Mour­inho faces a quandary as he pre­pares Manch­ester United for a trip to Pre­mier League lead­ers Liver­pool while Manch­ester City will be keen to show that last week’s Chelsea de­feat was just a blip.

United have an im­pres­sive re­cent record against Liver­pool, un­beaten in eight league games, but away fans will travel with a sense of trep­i­da­tion to An­field.

Unai Emery takes his Arse­nal side, un­beaten in 21 matches in all com­pe­ti­tions, to face strug­gling Southamp­ton while Chelsea also travel to the south coast to take on Brighton.

Manch­ester City host sev­enth-placed Ever­ton while Tot­ten­ham, fresh from reach­ing the Cham­pi­ons League knock­out phase, face Burn­ley at Wem­b­ley.

AFP Sports picks out some of the main talk­ing points ahead of the week­end fix­tures in the Pre­mier League. CAN MOUR­INHO END LIVER­POOL’S UN­BEATEN RUN? José Mour­inho came un­der fire last year for fail­ing to at­tack Liver­pool’s then leaky de­fence, set­tling for a 0-0 draw that cost his side mo­men­tum after a fine start to the sea­son.

Nor­mally a draw at An­field would be a good re­sult but de­feat to­mor­row could leave United 11 points off the top four if other re­sults go against them.

United scored four goals last week against Ful­ham but their at­tack­ing play has rarely been fluid this sea­son and they are com­ing up against a de­fence that has con­ceded a sin­gle goal at home in the Pre­mier League this sea­son.

In a sta­tis­ti­cal quirk, Roberto Firmino, Mo­hamed Salah and Sa­dio Mane will all be look­ing for a first goal or as­sist in a Pre­mier League match for Liver­pool against United in more than 14 hours of foot­ball but few would bet against Salah adding to his tally in his cur­rent rich vein of form. JE­SUS FIR­ING BLANKS Gabriel Je­sus is in a slump — he has not found the net in the Pre­mier League since Au­gust de­spite chances to stake his claim in the ab­sence of Ser­gio Aguero through in­jury.

City boss Pep Guardi­ola has come to the de­fence of the mis­fir­ing for­ward, say­ing he just needs to re­lax but he will be scratch­ing his head about how to get the best out of the Brazil­ian. Liver­pool for­ward Mo­hamed Salah will be look­ing to help his side ex­tend its un­beaten run when they host Manch­ester United to­mor­row. PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Je­sus started his City ca­reer brightly and was seen as a se­ri­ous threat to Aguero’s po­si­tion in the team.

But the signs are that Guardi­ola does not trust the 21-year-old to de­liver at the mo­ment. He has started just four Pre­mier League games this sea­son and Guardi­ola left him out of the start­ing 11 against Chelsea last week de­spite the ab­sence of Aguero. ARSE­NAL’S DE­FEN­SIVE CRI­SIS Arse­nal are with­out a clutch of cen­tre­backs for their trip to sec­ond-bot­tom club Southamp­ton, seek­ing fresh di­rec­tion un­der new man­ager Ralph Hasen­huttl.

Sokratis Pa­pas­tathopou­los and Shko­dran Mustafi are sus­pended after pick­ing up book­ings in last week’s 1-0 win against Hud­der­s­field while Kon­stanti­nos Mavropanos and Rob Hold­ing are in­jured.

Club cap­tain Lau­rent Ko­scielny could fea­ture even though has been miss­ing from the Pre­mier League since May.

Man­ager Unai Emery said the club could look into re­cruit­ing a de­fender when the trans­fer win­dow opens — both Chelsea’s Gary Cahill and Eric Bailly of Manch­ester United have been re­cently linked with a move to the Emi­rates. PO­CHET­TINO’S RIS­ING STOCK Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino en­hanced his bur- geon­ing rep­u­ta­tion with an im­pres­sive 1-1 draw at Barcelona this week as his side reached the Cham­pi­ons League knock­outs.

The down­side of the suc­cess is that the Spurs boss is be­ing linked once again to clubs higher up foot­ball’s food chain, specif­i­cally Real Madrid and Manch­ester United.

“It’s no co­in­ci­dence that ev­ery day you read Real Madrid want him or United want him,” Danny Rose told the Guardian ahead of Tot­ten­ham’s match against Burn­ley.

“It’s ex­actly what he de­serves. What he has done here in the last four or five years has been amaz­ing. He has trans­formed how oth­ers think of us out­side the club and he has trans­formed how we think of our­selves and how we ap­proach big games.” — AFP.

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