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    Manchester United vs. Liverpool Match Preview


    One of the biggest games in world football takes place this weekend as in-form Manchester United attempt to extend their nine-match winning run against North-West rivals and title-chasing Liverpool.

    A win will take Jose Mourinho's side to within two points of a place in the top four, while Liverpool will be desperate to return to winning ways in order to keep pace with leaders Chelsea.

    The match is expected to attract a global television audience of around 700 million, approximately 10 per cent of the world's population, and will be viewed in over 200 countries throughout the world.

    Manchester United

    When the sides last met in mid-October, it was Liverpool who headed into the encounter as favourites having won their previous five successive games, while Manchester United had failed to beat Stoke City at Old Trafford in their previous match.

    Three months on and although Liverpool have maintained their title challenge, it is United who enter the game as the form side and seek a tenth successive victory in all competitions and a 16th game in a row without defeat.

    United’s change of fortunes can be attributed to the form of influential midfielders Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan as well as that of December’s Player of the Month Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has scored 12 goals in his last 12 games.

    The former Sweden international, however, missed Tuesday night’s 2-0 win over Hull City due to illness and is a doubt to line-up on Sunday, while defender Eric Bailly will be a definite absentee as he is representing the Ivory Coast in the African Cup of Nations.

    Despite his side’s ninth consecutive win in all competitions, which has put them on the brink of a ninth EFL Cup final appearance, Jose Mourinho was still not totally happy about proceedings and demanded more from the club's fans following the win.

    The Portuguese's rallying call, in which he asked his supporters not to treat the club’s most hotly-anticipated match of the season as "a visit to the theatre", may just give his side the advantage in a game of such small margins.

    Victory against Liverpool would bring United to within two points of their North-West rivals, while also remaining on the coattails of second-place Tottenham, third-place Arsenal and fifth-place Manchester City.

    Liverpool

    Liverpool have had a disappointing start to 2017 with draws against strugglers Sunderland and League Two side Plymouth as well as defeat against Southampton on Wednesday night in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

    Jurgen Klopp was relieved that The Saints had not added to the 20th minute goal scored by Nathan Redmond, with the Hampshire side having had several chances to put the tie out of Liverpool’s reach.

    The German will demand a much better performance from his team this weekend if they are to beat Manchester United at Old Trafford for only the sixth time in the Premier League having failed to defeat them at Anfield earlier in the season.

    Liverpool's need has been made all the greater following Chelsea’s 3-0 win over reigning champions Leicester City, which stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League to eight points, while both Tottenham and Arsenal also recorded wins.

    One encouraging sign from an otherwise disappointing night on the South Coast was the return of Philippe Coutinho, following two months out with an ankle injury, and the influential forward is likely to line-up against Manchester United on Sunday.

    Joel Matip and club captain Jordan Henderson, who have both been on the sidelines in recent weeks due to respective ankle and heel injuries, could also return if they pass late fitness tests.

    The match sees two of the most charismatic managers in the Premier League go head-to-head, with Jurgen Klopp coming out on top in six previous meetings against Jose Mourinho with three wins to the Portuguese’s one.

    Manchester United Team News

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be monitored ahead of kick-off after missing Tuesday night's win over Hull City due to illness, with Marcus Rashford likely to retain his place if the Swede misses out.

    Wayne Rooney, who was only a substitute when the sides met in October, will be hoping to keep his place as he seeks a historic 250th goal that would take him one clear of Sir Bobby Charlton as the club's all-time leading goalscorer.

    One player who will not take part on Sunday is defender Eric Bailly, who is on international duty with the Ivory Coast, but Marcos Rojo could replace Phil Jones in central defence if the Argentine shakes off a muscle injury.

    United's only long-term absentee is forward James Wilson, who cut short a loan spell with Championship side Derby County in October when he picked up an anterior cruciate ligament injury and is expected to be out for most of the season.

    Liverpool Team News

    Philippe Coutinho is in line to make his first Premier League appearance since sustaining an ankle injury at the end of November, with the Brazilian coming on as a 61st minute substitute against Southampton on Wednesday night.

    Jordan Henderson (heel) and Joel Matip (ankle) could also return for the away side if they pass late fitness tests, although Serbian midfielder Marko Grujic (tendon) is not expected to make his comeback until at least midweek.

    If Coutinho, Henderson and Matip return to The Reds' starting line-up, it is likely to be Daniel Sturridge, Lucas Leiva and Ragnar Klavan who are dropped from the team that suffered a 1-0 defeat against Southampton four days ago.

    Striker Danny Ings and goalkeeper Adam Bogdan are Liverpool's only other players currently on the treatment table with the duo expected to miss the rest of the season with long-term knee injuries.

    Head-to-head

    Manchester United have had the better of the head-to-head over Liverpool in recent years, winning eight and drawing two of the past 13 encounters in all competitions, with five of those victories coming at Old Trafford.

    The teams last met in October 2016, when Jose Mourinho's side performed a defensive masterclass to come away from Anfield with a 0-0 draw, while their last meeting at Old Trafford was also drawn.

    Since the start of the Premier League, United and Liverpool have met on 59 occasions in all competitions with The Red Devils coming out on top with 31 victories to their opponents' 18, with 10 matches finishing as draws.

    In a rivalry first contested in 1894, it is also United who lead the overall head-to-head with 87 wins to Liverpool's 75, while 63 of their 225 meetings have ended level.

    Score Prediction

    Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool
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    Item Reviewed: Manchester United vs. Liverpool Match Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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