The biggest rivalry in the Premier League is set to be rekindled on Saturday when Liverpool travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United for the first time this season. Games between these two teams always bring the blood and thunder. With both teams trying to bounce back from disappointing results, and the trigger-happy Michael Oliver officiating (three red cards and 20 yellow cards in his first three games), the stage is set for another dramatic installment. The last time Liverpool played against Manchester United, the story was about Steven Gerrard and his ridiculous red card, given 38-seconds after he'd stepped onto the pitch.
But Gerrard has gone to LA, and Liverpool will also likely be without new captain Jordan Henderson for this match. Former Manchester City-man James Milner, who will don the armband in the event of Henderson's absence, is no stranger to a rivalry with United however. These games tend to naturally take on more significance than a mere three points, but that is especially true for this match, due to the uncertainty and concern over Liverpool's recent form. Without captain Hendo and creative lynchpin Philippe Coutinho, someone will have to step up if they want to get a result.
After being dismantled at home by West Ham, Brendan Rodgers will be hoping to right some wrongs and make a statement of intent about the direction of his team. An utterly mediocre Manchester United team did the double over an even mediocre-er Liverpool last season, and a third defeat to their rivals in less than a year would be a bitter pill to swallow.
As for Manchester United, their current results mirror Liverpool's with Agent Jonjo's Swansea managing a come-from-behind victory against them two weeks ago. A silly end to the transfer window provided some further drama for their fans to stew over, and may lead to the failed outbound transfer, David De Gea, getting his first start of the season. Phil Jones is out injured and Michael Carrick picked up a knock over the international break.
New record teenage signing Anthony Martial will likely start on the bench on Saturday. On the pitch for Manchester United, expect to see De Gea, along with Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrara, Bastian Schweinsteiger (say a prayer for Eliz), Juan Mata, and Wayne Rooney.
Predicted for Liverpool:
Gomez, Škrtel, Lovren
Clyne, Lucas, Can, Moreno
The left side of the team is, at the moment, a bit of a mystery to anyone besides Brendan Rodgers. For starters, the eternal question of Lovren vs Sakho will be playing out again this week. After a terrible performance against West Ham, characteristic of the ones that got him benched last season, Lovren is at risk of losing his starting position to Sakho once again. Alberto Moreno, who's looked bright every time he's come on, may get Coutinho's open spot over Danny Ings. Gomez, while doing quite well in a new position, showed against West Ham that he would need help covering the left side if Liverpool are anything other than extremely conservative in their set up. Assuming United have done their homework, Juan Mata will be targeting the youngster all game, requiring Moreno to supply support and help shuttle the attack forward. This is the type of match where Liverpool will likely cede possession of the ball, and Gomez's defensive stability as a natural center back may be desired by the manager.
Ings was one of the few players to come out of the West Ham game with any credit. If Rodgers decides to go with a more attacking 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield, we may see him starting up front with Benteke. For that to work, Gomez would likely miss out, with Moreno replacing him as left back. It seems more likely, though, that Rodgers will take a more conservative approach, and Saturday seems as good a time as any to bet on a return to three at the back to give the side both needed width and some defensive solidity.
Daniel Sturridge is in full training with the team. He will not start, and it's highly unlikely that he will even make the bench for this game. However, his progress is still good news for Liverpool fans who can look forward to seeing their star striker on the pitch again soon. Additionally, Adam Lallana and, as previously mentioned, Jordan Henderson are also likely to miss out on the game, along with Jon Flanagan and Joe Allen. Philippe Coutinho is set to miss this game due to suspension.
A draw would favor Liverpool, who just need to get something out of this game, particularly without three of their most important players in the line up.
Kickoff is set for 5:30PM BST/12:30PM EST, with coverage from Sky Sports 1 in the UK and regular NBC in the US. We'll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it's released, our live matchday thread and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on all the action as it happens.
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