Champions Liverpool host leaders Manchester United in Sunday's huge clash and Simon Mail is expecting a close encounter...
"This match pits together a Liverpool team with an extraordinary home record against a Manchester United side currently on an exceptional away run."
Liverpool v Manchester United
Live on Sky Sports Premier League
Klopp's side need to respond after recent wobbles
Liverpool will head into Sunday's highly-anticipated clash at home to Manchester United in an unfamiliar recent position. The champions find themselves in the chasing pack after a stuttering run in recent weeks. Liverpool absolutely dominated the Premier League last season, romping to the title by an 18-point margin. This campaign is like no other though, with a packed schedule condensed behind closed doors by the pandemic, as another runaway success looks out of the question.
Jurgen Klopp's side threatened to put some distance between their rivals after their 7-0 demolition job at Crystal Palace last month. Famed front three Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane all scored during the rout but two points from their last three games has not followed the script. Sam Allardyce cannot buy a result for West Brom unless it involves a trip to Anfield as struggling West Brom snatched a 1-1 draw at the end of December.
Liverpool followed this with a goalless draw at Newcastle United and it got even worse after the side slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Southampton in their first game of 2021. One goal from their last three league games has to be a concern and Liverpool, who have shown signs of mental and physical fatigue recently, did not look like scoring in a toothless display at St Mary's. Liverpool won 4-1 against Aston Villa's kids in the FA Cup last weekend to set up a second clash with Manchester United, in the fourth round, in as many weeks.
United hope for overdue title challenge
If you had suggested back in October, Manchester United would be top of the league by the middle of January, you would have been laughed out of the room. Pressure was intensifying on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after their 6-1 hammering at home to Tottenham and the side looked anything but title contenders. What a difference three months makes.
Since United's home defeat to Arsenal at the start of November, the side have surged up the table and now hold a three-point lead in top spot.
A superb run of nine wins and two draws from their last 11 league games have transformed United into a team that have to be taken seriously.
Bruno Fernandes has been the mastermind behind their resurgence since his arrival a year ago with the playmaker, who has scored 11 league goals this season, leading the side's renaissance. This is the first time United have been top of the league, after this stage of the campaign, since the final day of the 2012-13 title winning season under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Solskjaer has built this run on an outstanding away record which has seen them win seven and draw one of their eight matches in the competition. United have the counter-attacking tools, with the pace of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial if he is fit, to hit teams on the break and are at their best when opponents attack and afford them space. Paul Pogba impressed, scoring the deflected winner, in their 1-0 win at Burnley on Tuesday which enabled them to overhaul Liverpool.
Liverpool are 2.021/1 favourites for this match but it is rare to find them as big a price to win a home game. Klopp's side have a remarkable home record with their last defeat at Anfield in the league back in April 2017. Since the start of last season, the side have only dropped points in two home games. But Liverpool have shown uncharacteristic frailties lately and are without a win in three league matches.
United are 3.814/5 to topple Liverpool and on their recent form this looks a big price. This match pits together a Liverpool team with an extraordinary home record against a side currently on an exceptional away run. United have won seven of their eight away games in the league and recently secured ten successive road wins in the competition, stretching back to last season, which was only halted by a late Leicester equaliser. The visitors, who are unbeaten away in the league since losing at Liverpool last January, have to be considered at generous odds especially with this game lacking the hostility without fans of a packed stadium. Countering that, United have not won at Anfield for five years and have beaten Liverpool just once in their last ten meetings.
The draw is trading at 4.03/1 and certainly cannot be dismissed despite Liverpool's impenetrable Anfield record. United will go for the victory but a point would be an excellent result while Klopp's side have already drawn six games this season. Two of the last three clashes between the fierce rivals have also ended level so the draw should rightly attract support. With Liverpool unbeaten in 67 league meetings and confident United on a superb run away, the prospect of the teams cancelling each other out has to be a strong possibility and the draw appeals.
There is no shortage of attacking talent on display this weekend but anyone expecting plenty of goals may be disappointed. Liverpool have misfired recently and United are likely to set up to frustrate them in the hope of hitting the hosts on the break.
The champions' last three league games have all seen under three goals while two of the leaders' last three matches in the competition have also produced under 2.5 goals.
This is also a fixture which has also frequently failed to produce fireworks despite all the hype. Two of the last six meetings have ended goalless and five of Liverpool's last six home games against United have featured less than three goals.
With Liverpool's attack lacking their usual fluency, backing under 2.5 goals looks the value bet at 2.3211/8. Betfair's Same Game Multi offer gives you a £10 free bet when you stake this amount on the match. There are a variety of options worth considering including combining Liverpool or the draw in the double chance market with under 2.5 goals which increases the odds to 2.52.
Rashford has scored three goals in his last four Premier League games against Liverpool, with these goals being worth four points to Manchester United. Rashford is 12/5 to find the net this weekend.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster
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