Two teams in competition for a top-four finish meet on Sunday when Liverpool host Manchester United at Anfield (13:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Brendan Rodgers’ (pictured) side struggled for the first half of their 1-0 win over Swansea on Monday but a half-time change of formation (from 3-4-2-1 to a 3-4-3 diamond) brought about a significant improvement. They created the better chances thereafter and although there was an element of fortune to Jordan Henderson’s deflected winner, they were deserved victors.
Liverpool started the season very slowly but vastly improved results from Christmas onwards have seen them close to within two points of these opponents in the race for the final Champions League qualifying position. Rodgers’ decision to switch to a 3-4-2-1 formation has given his side better balance and seen them improve in both attack and defence.
Liverpool can boast five consecutive league victories and being undefeated in their last 13 league fixtures. They are fifth in the Premier League table, with 54 points from 16 wins, six draws and seven defeats.
Before their current unbeaten streak, Liverpool were scoring at a rate of 1.19 goals per match and conceding at a rate of 1.38 per match. Since the commencement of that run, they have scored at a rate of 1.85 goals per match and conceded at a rate of 0.62 per match. Their points gained per match has also increased significantly, from 1.31 to 2.54.
Rodgers is without the injured Brad Jones (thigh) and Jordan Ibe (knee), while Jon Flanagan (knee), Lucas Leiva (groin) and Mario Balotelli (illness) are doubtful.
Man Utd make the short trip to Merseyside on the back of four wins in their last five league fixtures and having lost just twice in the league since November. They hold the vital fourth spot in the Premier League, with 56 points from 16 wins, eight draws and five defeats.
Louis Van Gaal’s side produced their most purposeful 45 minutes of football this season in their comfortable 3-0 win at home to Tottenham Hotspur last weekend. The positioning of Marouane Fellaini caused their visitors all sorts of problems and the Belgian was one of three first-half scorers, alongside Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney.
The victory represented the perfect start to a tough closing set of fixtures for United, who after Liverpool still have to face the current top three (Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal) before the end of the campaign. With just a two-point cushion over their hosts and six-point leads over Southampton and Spurs, they have little margin for error.
The quality of performance was very much welcomed, particularly as it came on the back of their disappointing home defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-final. Van Gaal has been criticised for the cautious approach his side have taken for much of the campaign, but against Spurs they attacked with real conviction, moving the ball forward quickly and accurately.
Van Gaal is without the injured Robin Van Persie (ankle) and suspended Johnny Evans, while Marcos Rojo (knock) is doubtful but expected to take part.
Liverpool vs Manchester United Betting Tips
Man Utd were comfortable 3-0 winners when these sides met at Old Trafford earlier this season. The last eight league meetings at all venues have seen four wins for United, three for Liverpool and one draw. Liverpool have, however, won four of their last six meetings at Anfield, including a 1-0 victory in last season’s equivalent fixture.
Liverpool are in excellent form and will be confident of getting the better of their historical rivals. The majority of their summer signings have now settled in and with a formation that seems to be getting the best out of all of the players, they look a much stronger side than the one that was beaten at Old Trafford in mid-December.
Man Utd are in pretty good form themselves in the league and come into the match on the back of an impressive performance at home to Spurs last weekend. They will, however, be aware that this match is likely to be much tougher, and that it will provide a stern test of their hopes of beating Liverpool to a top-four finish.
It is likely to be a tight and well-contested match, with a draw the most likely result.
- Back the draw @ 5/2 with BetVictor or Stan James.
- This has traditionally been a relatively high-scoring fixture, with six of the last eight encounters ending with three or more goals. However, six of Liverpool’s last eight league matches have seen two or fewer goals, while Man Utd have kept a clean sheet in each of their last three. There is also a lot at stake. Back under 2.5 goals @ 10/11 with Betfred or Betfair Sportsbook.