January hasn’t gone quite the way that Liverpool will have hoped. They’re contending with a squad diminished by injuries and absences, and have gone three games in a row, in three different competitions, without a victory.
The 2-2 draw against Sunderland, their last game in the league, could be written off as bad luck, since the Black Cats came back twice in that game through penalties. The FA Cup third round scoreless draw against Plymouth Argyle featured a side of young players who have had very few opportunities to play with the first team this season. Liverpool’s dreadful 1-0 loss to Southampton in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final cannot be so easily excused. Klopp played his strongest available team, and they deserved to lose that game.
But all that frustration, all those lost points and wasted opportunities, all of those things will be an afterthought if Liverpool secure a victory over their fierce rivals, Manchester United. The last time the two teams met at Anfield, they played out a scoreless draw that left all involved unsatisfied.
United, at the time, had yet to bed in their new players, particularly Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and went to Anfield intending to defend deep and play for the draw, and that’s exactly what happened. This time around, Jose Mourinho’s men are flying high off of a nine-game winning streak in all competitions, and will be looking to make it an even 10 in front of the home crowd.
While Liverpool lost two points last week against Sunderland, they still managed to gain one point on the leaders Chelsea, who lost to Spurs. On the other hand, their competitors behind them continued to win. Consequently, if Liverpool lose this match, they could find themselves out of the top four and forced to play catch up. A win keeps them in second place behind Chelsea for another week.
Sadio Mané’s absence will be felt until he returns, hopefully unharmed, from Gabon in February. However, aside from him, Klopp has had some good news come his way about his injured players. Philippe Coutinho made his return to the team with 30 minutes of game time against Southampton, so he’s likely to feature against Manchester United. In addition to him, captain Jordan Henderson and Joël Matip may also be ready for action. Any of these influential players returning would be a boon to Klopp, never mind all three.
As for Manchester United, star striker and speaking-in-third-person-enthusiast Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed United’s EFL Cup semi-final against Reading due to illness, but should be ready to start on Sunday.
Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner
Wijnaldum, Henderson, Can
Lallana, Firmino, Coutinho
This is more like the Best Case Scenario Line Up, because chances are that at least one, if not all three, of Coutinho, Henderson, and Matip won’t be ready to start. It’s also an open question whether Matip, if he’s fit, comes in for Klavan or Lovren, considering the solid performances that Klavan has put in recently. Daniel Sturridge is the other anomaly, and Klopp could very well keep him up front and move Lallana into the midfield.
Danny Ings remains out of the team indefinitely.
Kickoff is set for 4:00PM GMT/11:00AM EST Sunday on Sky Sports 1/HD in the UK and NBCSN Sports in the US. Elsewhere, Optus Sport in Australia, TSN1 in Canada, Star Sports Select HD/1 in India, SuperSport 3 Africa in Kenya, Astro SuperSport 3 in Malaysia, and 102 (HD) mio Stadium in Singapore will all be carrying the game. You can find full listings at LivesoccerTV.
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.