Manchester United vs Liverpool
| Sunday, February 24th|
Premier League | Old Trafford
2:05PM GMT/9:05AM EST
It’s with a heavy heart that I have to remind everyone, on the eve of Liverpool’s trip to Old Trafford, that Jose Mourinho is no longer the manager of Manchester United Football Club. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has come in and reminded Manchester United’s billion pound squad that they know how to play football after all, and the results have been reflected on the pitch.
Liverpool will storm Old Trafford eager to repeat the December performance that saw them handily beat their rivals 3-1 at home. They’ll be able to field a strong squad, with many previously injured players returning to the team. Virgil van Dijk, who got a mid-week break thanks to an unfortunate suspension, should return to marshal the Reds’ back line along with Alisson.
Xherdan Shaqiri wasn’t quite ready to feature on Tuesday against his old club Bayern Munich, but he’ll likely be ready tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if Klopp utilizes the midfield trio of Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, and James Milner that he appears to favor in big games, or if he throws in the flair of Naby Keïta, the solidity of Fabinho, or the industriousness of Shaqiri instead.
As the season hits its crescendo, every game feels like a must-win. Liverpool have only lost once so far in the league, but they are still in a death battle for first place with Manchester City, and three points in this match will be absolutely pivotal.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mané
As mentioned, Virgil van Dijk returns to the line-up after missing out on the Champions League, and he’ll play alongside Matip, since Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez remain injured. There’s a slight, less likely, chance that Klopp chooses Fabinho for the back line instead of the midfield, but it should probably be Matip.
Wijnaldum has impressed since he returned from injury, and Henderson was one of the bright spots in a frustrating game on Tuesday, so Klopp should be picking them. I chose Fabinho over Milner for the last midfield spot because they’ll be away from home and could use the defensive cover.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also remains out for this match, though he is back in full training with the team.
As for Manchester United, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial are both doubts for tomorrow’s game after being injured in the Champions League. Other players who may not make it on the pitch are Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo. Paul Pogba, on the other hand, will be available, and unfortunately Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will almost surely play him — an unwelcome change from the last match.
What the Managers Had to Say
Jürgen Klopp: “It’s a big one. They are in a good moment, physically strong, defend and attack well. Full of confidence. We will try everything to get a result there.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “I’ve played in a few of these myself and I know the magnitude of it for the fans, for everyone who works here, the staff. There have been many comments about, ‘this is the big one’ and ‘we’re looking forward to this one’. Then it’s our job to be focusing and channeling all that energy into performance mode. It’s not about emotions. I understand that emotion can be brought into it, but we have to stay focused and controlled but with some fight in us as well.”
Referee: Michael Oliver Assistants: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett Fourth official: Andre Marriner
Kickoff is set for 2:05PM GMT/9:05AM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV. In the meantime, 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 the action as it happens.