Manchester United v Liverpool
Thursday March 17, 20:05
Live on BT Sport Europe
Two north-east juggernauts collided at Anfield last week, but only one of them had any fuel. While Liverpool's attack buzzed around dangerously and their midfield competed vigorously, Manchester United were limp, rudderless and totally ineffective. Had it not been for the sustained excellence of keeper David De Gea, this last-16 tie would already be over.
United still have a glimmer of hope, but the 2-0 win they need just to force extra-time may be hard to come by. If we use the Premier League as a yardstick, seeing as Liverpool are a domestic rival, we see that United have won by a margin of more than one goal just once in their last 17 outings. Even the 3-1 win they managed against Liverpool at Old Trafford earlier this season wouldn't be enough to see them through to the quarter-finals. Indeed, in the Premier League Louis Van Gaal's side has won by more than a one-goal margin just five times in 29 games.
Liverpool have won their last three matches, and pushed Manchester City all the way at Wembley in the League Cup final. Jurgen Klopp's Reds are far from perfect, but tangible progress is being made. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is a weak link, and the defending is a bit chaotic sometimes, but Liverpool are starting to click in attack.
Daniel Sturridge has had a short run of games and looks to be finding some sharpness (Opta tell us he has scored five goals in his last seven games against United), Philippe Coutinho was superb in the first leg, and summer signing Roberto Firmino has caught fire. I tipped him to score last week, and he has now netted eight times in the last 13 games, grabbing a goal in each of his last three appearances.
Liverpool were right on top of United last week, able to press them relentlessly, with Red Devils' coach Van Gaal admitting his side failed to cope with that hustling and harrying. Liverpool can't quite press so often on a bigger pitch at Old Trafford, but that space may also play into the visitors' hands, as they will create counter-attack opportunities as United look to salvage the tie. If you're tempted to back the visitors at 2.982/1, note the following - Opta tell us Liverpool have lost on 12 of their 14 trips to Old Trafford.
I'm more tempted to back Both Teams To Score at 1.910/11. Klopp says his side will try to be positive and go for a precious away goal, and he is absolutely right to adopt that strategy. An away goal effectively kills the tie, and Liverpool simply aren't set up to go to Old Trafford and dig in. On the United side of things, they have scored 16 goals in their last eight home games, and against a sometimes shaky Liverpool rearguard, I think they can score.
Back Both Teams To Score at 1.910/11