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Fixture Watch: United Looming

Lurking after Liverpool’s mid-week clash is a dance with an old rival.

Liverpool v Manchester United - Premier League - Anfield Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images

Liverpool’s fixture list clog began properly two weeks ago, kicking off a solid run essentially through the end of the year that would see the Reds play 10 matches in a little over 30 days. Liverpool are quite literally in the thick of it, with the final Europa League Group Stage match set for Thursday. Peeking over the shoulder of the match at hand, like an unwelcome guest, is none other than Liverpool’s most bitter rival: Manchester United.

This isn’t match preview but rather a bit of an extended musing. Namely: is it possible that the United match, even w/ the Mancunians clearly in a bit of a dire moment, poised to be a trickier fixture than the current run of results might suggest?

Liverpool will be looking at their contests with Arsenal and Newcastle, on either side of the festive holiday, as a means of cementing their place as legitimate title contenders. And with the quality on hand at Arsenal and Manchester City, maximum points are likely going to be a requirement. Couple that pressure for perfection with a derby match against a cornered and ailing rival and, well, it just feels like it might be a bit more cagey than we would expect.

If there was a squad whose mentality seemed perfectly poised to deal with the rigors of a title challenge while not playing at their best; a group that seems to grow in confidence when the odds look worst - or are otherwise just wildly insulated from what might cause most reasonable folks to, in technical terms, lose their fucking shit. Well, it’s this club, isn’t it?

For City, there’s an almost anodyne, sterile arrogance that colors how they move. For Liverpool, there is a motley confidence about this club that seems to say that, even when things don’t look great, it is all going according to plan. Never laconic, but also not exactly hair-on-fire urgency when looking for a goal. There is an insistence, a doggedness, and increasingly a feeling of inevitability about Liverpool in this current moment.

Usually, one would be tempted to look at a derby fixture and scrap the talk on form. But there really does feel like something special about this Liverpool club. Here’s hoping they are able to keep their focus, stay locked-in on the match at hand. And deliver like they have been for much of this year.

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