If Liverpool lose to Manchester United tomorrow, the gap between the two storied rivals will be ten points. Yes, how dramatic indeed. In fact, this should serve as the additional fuel to describe this as a potentially defining game. Liverpool’s aim should be more than holding onto a place in the top four, but Merseyside’s finest must be careful of falling too far behind the leading pack to even maintain what was secured last season.
Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, and Chelsea all have winnable games this weekend, and as such, avoiding defeat tomorrow is essentially mandatory with a trip to Wembley on the agenda next weekend. Simply put, Liverpool need to do and be better. After two years of Jürgen Klopp in charge, this is the sort of game that could serve as a timely reminder of what he has built and the potential for further progress; however, the players must prove to be up to the task.
For Liverpool (4-3-3):
Mignolet; Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Coutinho
Adam Lallana, Adam Bogdan (he continues to exist as a Liverpool player), Nathaniel Clyne, and Sadio Mané are all out injured. Dejan Lovren is doubtful, but hopefully he will recover in time to start as the alternative options are either inadequate or inexperienced. We will never forget you, our darling Virgil van Dijk. Two more months and we can look forward to the prospect of botching your signing in January despite your clear desire to join Klopp’s squad.
Mané missing six weeks is a considerable setback, and in truth, there is no other way to dress that up. Combined with his three-match suspension last month, Liverpool have had a missing Mané rather than a present one for selection. Mohamed Salah, however, is available after his heroics in Egypt’s World Cup qualifiers. Salah will provide the pace and verticality that would not have existed when Mané was unavailable last season. Philippe Coutinho looked back to his old self before the international break and should fill in on the left instead of providing guile in midfield, leaving Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum (he’s at home so expect a performance) to join captain Jordan Henderson in a hard-working midfield three.
Marouane Fellaini was Paul Pogba’s replacement after the French international suffered a hamstring injury; the big Belgian looked to have hit his stride as José Mourinho’s faith in the player seemed to have paid off. However, a knee injury will keep Fellaini out for three weeks. The absence of Michael Carrick exacerbates Mourinho’s selection dilemma, but a 4-2-3-1 with Nemanja Matić and Ander Herrera as the two midfielders should suffice for tomorrow.
There were doubts over the involvement of the free-scoring Romelu Lukaku after he was reported to have played through some discomfort in the 4-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace before international fixtures took centre stage for the second time this season. Lukaku, though, will start and look to trouble a defence that provides far more questions than answers as Liverpool seek to move forward under Klopp’s aegis. Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimović are long-term injury absentees, and Phil Jones may miss his first league game of the season. Jones has been impressed so far this campaign, but it will be interesting to see if Chris Smalling can provide the same reliability alongside the solid Eric Bailly.
This is a game where both teams won’t be at full strength and will have to utilise resources to secure a positive result in one of football’s great rivalries. Despite losing 5-0 to Manchester City, Jürgen Klopp’s record against other members of the top six is compelling. While it is no guarantee of victory tomorrow, it should allay fears that Liverpool may come undone against a formidable and fierce foe. A key selection issue will be whether Joe Gomez or Trent Alexander-Arnold feature at right back, but both youngsters have experienced difficult spells in recent games. Perhaps the defensive reliability of Nathaniel Clyne may only now be appreciated in his absence.
Liverpool can take control of the conversation with three points tomorrow, and make no mistake, a win would be massive. Inflicting the first defeat of the season on Manchester United and Mourinho would be delicious. Anfield awaits...
Kickoff is set for 12.30PM BST/7.30AM EST tomorrow on Sky Sports Premier League in the UK and NBC Sports in the US. Elsewhere, Optus Sport in Australia, TSN1 in Canada, Star Sports Select HD1 in India, SuperSport3 Africa in Kenya, Astro SuperSport 3 in Malaysia, SuperSport 3 Nigeria in Nigeria, 102 (HD) mio Stadium in Singapore, and SuperSport 3 in South Africa are carrying the match. BBC Radio 5 Live and LFCTV Go provide online options to follow 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.