As we build up to Saturday's huge clash between Liverpool and Manchester United, Martin Laurence discusses some big talking points including Klopp v Mourinho, Sadio Mane's absence, and the goalscoring threats of Romelu Lukaku and Mo Salah...
"The Egyptian, fresh from firing his nation to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years, will feel he wasn't given a fair shot by Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge and, full of confidence following seven goals in his last nine appearances for club and country..."
The Premier League certainly returns with a bang following the latest international break, with Liverpool hosting Manchester United in the latest edition of their fierce rivalry.
The visitors have enjoyed a stronger start to the campaign, answering questions from last season where their hosts have failed to do so. It's common knowledge that the form book can go out the window for such intense fixtures though, so we take a look at four key talking points ahead of Saturday's Anfield encounter.
Klopp vs Mourinho revisited
When these two managers have come to blows in the past there's no question as to who has the upper hand. In seven meetings Jose Mourinho has masterminded just one victory, and a hollow one at that as his Real Madrid ultimately crashed out to Jurgen Klopp's Dortmund on aggregate in the Champions League semi-final.
As such the Portuguese has never really come away from a match-up with the German with that winning feeling United fans are becoming re-accustomed to this season. When considering Liverpool's highly impressive record against the remaining sides in the top six under the tutelage of Klopp the chances of a home victory improve. It would be typical of this Reds side under this Reds manager if they followed back-to-back draws with Spartak and Newcastle by ending United's unbeaten start.
That said both games between the sides ended in stalemate last season and Mourinho is the master of picking up crucial points in such matches, so the draw at [3.40] is certainly tempting (Liverpool [2.8], United [2.84]).
Midfield reshuffle to dictate United tactics
The two meetings in the previous campaign were undeniably forgettable affairs, with the visitors unquestionably shutting up shop on Merseyside. On a night in which Paul Pogba was widely ridiculed for his performance, his midfield partner Ander Herrera stole the show and will hope that this game can kickstart his campaign.
The Spaniard was arguably the Red Devils' most consistent performer last season and was being touted as a potential heir to the captaincy Wayne Rooney vacated not too long ago. Fast forward a matter of months and he's fourth choice in the midfield pecking order, likely to be bumped up this weekend following injuries to the aforementioned Pogba and Marouane Fellaini.
With a greater engine than Nemanja Matic, he may be tasked with marking Philippe Coutinho out of the game and was certainly instrumental in as much this time last season, completing a whopping seven tackles and 10 interceptions to spoil the party in a goalless draw at Anfield. A repeat of that scoreline can be backed at [12.0].
The first real test for United and Lukaku
Okay, so the prospect of a match against Liverpool's defence might not seem like a daunting task but for Romelu Lukaku the need to silence some lingering critics persists. Labelled a flat track bully by some, the Belgian's record when facing the top teams at Everton was modest to say the least. He struck in just one of six Merseyside derbies and will hope to make a real statement to prove his doubters wrong this weekend.
At the other end this will also be the biggest challenge to an impressive United rearguard thus far, though the news of Sadio Mane's injury will aid United's cause. They know that the home side still have enviable options in attack regardless, but there are a number of reasons for optimism for Mourinho's men in that regard.
Salah offers greatest hope to Liverpool
While it's the absent Mane that has been identified by many as the key man to Liverpool's success in the final third, his record against this weekend's opponents makes for poor reading. In fact, while both Coutinho and Roberto Firmino have scored when facing United in the Europa League, the three players combined have never struck a league goal past the Red Devils across 14 appearances.
In Mo Salah, however, they have a man with a point to prove. The Egyptian, fresh from firing his nation to their first World Cup appearance in 28 years, will feel he wasn't given a fair shot by Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge and, full of confidence following seven goals in his last nine appearances for club and country, would love to get one over on his former boss.
It wouldn't be the first time either, having scored decisive goals to hand Basel two shock victories over Mourinho's Chelsea back in 2013. An even more frequent goal threat four years on, the 25-year-old is 12/5 on the Betfair Sportsbook to score anytime and further strengthen the assumption that Chelsea were too quick to write him off, to Liverpool's ultimate gain and potentially Mourinho's misery.