It’s here. The biggest match of this weekend’s FA Cup action. Liverpool and Manchester United face off in what is one of the most hotly contested rivalries in the history of the game, just more than a week after their last meeting. The Reds and the Red Devils face off in their first cup tie in a while, with both sides eager to progress to the next round. Here at Ball that matters we will be doing an in-depth preview of this enticing clash.
Buildup and Form
The two teams come into this match in heavily contrasting form. Liverpool are coming on the back of 1 win in 7 games, that too in a 4-1 win against Aston Villa’s youth side. Klopp’s men have failed to score in their past 6 premier league games and have seen a drastic drop down the table in that timeframe. Their attack has been misfiring and their league title hopes are dented. The Reds will be looking at this fixture as an opportunity to get close to some silverware and get back to form.
United, on the other hand, is flying high. Solskjaer’s men are first on the league table and are in their first title race since their infamous last title win under Ferguson. United doesn’t have any goalscoring issues, with goals coming in across all areas of the pitch. Much to the dismay of Liverpool fans, United have looked threatening in their last few matches. For the first time in a while, they’re coming into this tie as favorites.
Its is worth noting that these two sides met only a week back, in a match that ended in a drab 0-0 draw. It reeked of two sides eager not to lose, but United came off the stronger of the two for sure. Though Liverpool dominated the first half, United slowly came back into the game and had the better opportunities of the two sides. If not for a brilliant performance by Alisson, United might have just gone back with the three points.
Team News and Lineups
Liverpool will be without Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Diogo Jota – all of whom are recovering from long term injuries. Naby Keita and Jordan Henderson are also risks for this game and may not feature at all. The good news is that Joel Matip made his return against Burnley on Thursday and put in a decent performance. Klopp also confirmed in his press conference that Mohamed Salah would be starting against the table toppers in this crucial clash. Trent Alexander-Arnold may be benched after a string of poor performances.
Predicted XI – Allison, Robertson, Matip, Fabinho, Neco Williams, Jones, Thiago, Wijnaldum, Salah, Minamino, Firmino.
United, on the other hand, are coming into this game relatively injury free. They have a fully fit squad who are raring to go once again against the champions. Solskjaer may want to bench some of his key players as his title challenge is slowly gaining priority over other competitions. Still, it is unlikely that he will rest any such players for such an important clash.
Predicted XI – Henderson, Telles, Lindelof, Maguire, Wan Bissaka, Pogba, Matic, Bruno, Martial, Greenwood, Cavani
United overall record against the north-west rivals is fairly close but United certainly edge it in terms of wins. In 205 games between the clubs since 1894, United have come out on top 80 times, whereas Liverpool has won 67. Some 58 matches, like last weekend, have ended with honors even.
Liverpool is actually United’s most common opponent in the competition, with 17 previous FA Cup meetings. United have the edge over the Merseysiders in the world’s oldest club tournament, with nine wins. Four matches have ended drawn and Liverpool winning 4.
Players to watch out for
If there was a transformation of the season award, it would definitely go to Paul Pogba. The burly French midfielder has completely transformed into one of the best midfielders in the Premier League since his agent Mino Raiola made those comments about his future. He has become integral to this Man United side and has become the backbone of the team. He dictates play from the midfield and even plays on the wings if needed. The midfielder has also scored some vital goals in the last couple of weeks to maintain United’s lead on top of the table and Liverpool need to handle him carefully.
You can’t talk about United without talking about Bruno. Bruno has definitely established himself as one of the top three midfielders in the league after his arrival from Sporting in 2020. He has formed a strong relationship with Rashford, Pogba, and now Cavani. He’ll be eager to take advantage of the increasingly mediocre Liverpool backline and get among the goals once again. Like Pogba, Bruno’s influence needs to be minimized to maximize Liverpool’s chances of winning.
This is a bit of a left-field pick, but Jones’s performance will be extremely important in deciding the outcome of this match. He will be coming up against some of the best midfielders in the world in Bruno and Pogba. He has to hold his own in the important midfield battles. The youngster has ability for sure, but has often been error prone which has led Klopp to drop him in the last few Premier League games. This might be an occasion for him to make his name and deliver an important performance.
The Egyptian King set up some extremely high standards for himself in his first season in the Premier league. Now, it seems that he is becoming a victim of his own success. He has failed to score in the last four league games and his last goal came in that clash against the Villa U18s. He needs to pick up his form quickly to help Liverpool get back on the winning track and will see this clash as an opportunity to do so.
The stage is set for one of the biggest rivalries in football to shine once again. The two teams come into this match with contrasting form and similar ambitions, but under the lights at Old Trafford who will come out on top? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure, this game promises to be a memorable night of FA cup action.
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