The latest edition of the biggest rivalry in English football takes place this weekend with Manchester United travelling to Anfield to take on Liverpool (2.05pm Sunday live on Sky Sports 1).
It is not just an important clash in terms of tradition, history and local bragging rights, but also in the race for the top four and Champions League qualification.
Liverpool’s 3-3 draw with Arsenal on Wednesday night was a pulsating affair and one of the most entertaining games in the Premier League this season. The Reds came from 3-2 behind to snatch a last-minute equaliser through Joe Allen, a goal that could prove crucial as Jurgen Klopp targets fourth place in his debut campaign at the helm.
While the late leveller meant Liverpool fans departed Anfield in a positive mood, it is still just two wins from seven in the top flight. Klopp will be keen for his side to get back on track against their arch-enemies on Sunday. In this most open and unpredictable of Premier League seasons it would be a major missed opportunity were Liverpool – currently in ninth place, behind Stoke City, Crystal Palace and West Ham United among others – to finish in the Europa League spots or below.
The Merseysiders’ injury crisis has eased somewhat with Divock Origi, Dejan Lovren, Martin Skrtel and Philippe Coutinho now the only absentees. Recent rumours have suggested that Daniel Sturridge could make a shock return for this clash, although nothing has been confirmed by either Klopp or the club at the time of writing. The England international striker is highly unlikely to start the match, though, with a place on the substitutes’ bench far more likely.
Man Utd also head into this encounter on the back of a thrilling 3-3 draw. Newcastle United were their opponents on Tuesday, with Wayne Rooney’s (pictured) brace and Jesse Lingard’s strike cancelled out by goals from Georginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Paul Dummett.
United also need a victory this weekend to get their own Champions League push back on track. Louis van Gaal has come under severe pressure in the last month or so, with dull performances and average results leading to heavy criticism from supporters, pundits and the wider public.
In spite of that, the Red Devils remain in touch with the Champions League places: Tottenham Hotspur are just two points ahead in fourth, with victory on Sunday potentially lifting them above Spurs and West Ham depending on other results. The Premier League title looks out of reach, however, with leaders Arsenal and surprise package Leicester City nine points ahead of Man Utd with 17 matches remaining.
The visitors will be without Bastian Schweinsteiger, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo and Nick Powell for the trip across the northwest this weekend, while Adnan Januzaj is struggling with a lack of match fitness after returning early from his season-long loan at Borussia Dortmund. Van Gaal may select the same starting XI that took to the field against Newcastle in midweek, although Juan Mata will hope to reclaim his place in the side after being dropped to the bench at St James’ Park.
This clash will likely be tight and hard-fought between two outfits in need of all three points. If Liverpool begin the game with the same intensity they did in the first half against Arsenal, United could struggle to impose themselves. The key for the hosts will be taking full advantage of their probable fast start by putting the ball in the back of the net, as Man Utd may well be favourites if the score is still 0-0 by the time the match has settled down.
Liverpool are worth backing to triumph, though, with Klopp’s men looking for only their second victory at home since November.
With that in mind here are our match preview’s betting tips: