After a patchy recent run of results, Liverpool could really do with the shot in the arm that would come with victory over their historic rivals Manchester United on Saturday (12:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).
Since the late-September international break, Liverpool have played seven matches in all competitions and only won once, alongside two defeats and four draws. As the squad reconvene this week after another pause for internationals, improvement is required.
The results don’t tell the whole story. On the balance of chances, Liverpool could reasonably have been expected to win three or four of those drawn matches, while they even had the better opportunities early on in their 0-5 defeat to Manchester City before they were opened up for the first goal and then went on to crumble following Sadio Mane’s dismissal.
Liverpool’s 1-1 draw away to Newcastle prior to this most recent international break provided a neat snapshot of their season to date. They had the upper hand in terms of possession, shots and quality of chances created yet still conspired to drop points. Opportunities were missed and their defence was too easily split for the Newcastle goal.
The man who didn’t err in front of goal was Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian midfielder was heavily linked with Barcelona during the summer and was left out of Liverpool’s early matches of the season. But he has returned to the line-up since the closure of the transfer window and has performed superbly in recent weeks, notching three goals and an assist in his last three outings in all competitions.
Coutinho is part of a Liverpool attack who have enough pace and quality to trouble almost any defence. The problem is that they are not matched to a defence capable of holding opponents at bay. The Reds have conceded in each of their last seven matches in all competitions and have conceded twice or more in three of their seven league fixtures to date.
With that kind of record, it seems unlikely they’ll be able to constrict a Manchester United side who have scored at an average rate of three goals per match in the league so far this season. Jose Mourinho perhaps felt he didn’t have the necessary firepower to do anything other than shut up shop in the two meetings between the sides last season, but this time around, his United side look far better equipped to take a more positive approach.
The summer arrival of Romelu Lukaku from Everton has made the United attack much more dynamic. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the line, they were far too static at times last season but that has been rectified this time around. With Lukaku and Marcus Rashford as regular starters, United are better able to stretch opposing defences and transition quickly from defence into attack.
Mourinho is a coach who always gets his teams into title-challenging shape in his second season at the helm and the signings of Lukaku and midfielder Nemanja Matic have certainly helped United take a step forward. There is better balance to the side, and they look strong at both ends of the pitch, with a record of 21 goals scored and just two conceded in league play.
The main question mark is whether they can maintain that kind of form against stronger opposition. Man Utd have had a relatively easy set of opening fixtures and their local rivals Manchester City have been able to keep pace at the top despite a tougher schedule. With Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Arsenal and City to come before mid-December, the credentials of Mourinho’s side will now be fully tested.
As mentioned earlier in this match preview, last season’s matches between Liverpool and United produced two bore draws: 0-0 at Anfield and 1-1 at Old Trafford. But that seems unlikely to occur on Saturday as matches involving them have averaged over three goals so far this season, with Liverpool’s at a league-high 3.57 per match.
Man Utd have looked a more well-rounded team than Liverpool in the early months of the new season and should have a slight edge over their hosts on Saturday. A draw is, however, a perfectly feasible result and so backing United on the “draw no bet” market looks like the best way to go.
Our Preview’s Liverpool vs. Manchester United Betting Tips Verdict
- Back Manchester United to win on the ‘draw no bet’ market @ 11/12 with Unibet.
- Bet on over 2.5 goals @ 10/11 with Betfred, Unibet or SunBets.
Liverpool v Man Utd Betting Odds from Top Bookies