Two of English football's heavyweights collide on Sunday, and Kevin Hatchard believes Manchester United can keep the Liverpool attack at bay...
"Manchester United haven't lost in the league since January, and they have won five of their last six top-flight matches. It makes little sense for Liverpool to be the favourites here."
Manchester United v Liverpool
Sunday 02 April, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Six-gun salvo puts United in control
Manchester United may have been forgiven for easing off a little this weekend, despite the historical and cultural significance of their rivalry with Liverpool. For much of their Europa League semi-final first leg against Roma, it seemed as though the Red Devils may have to conserve energy for a tricky trip to Rome. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men came back from 2-1 down to demolish the Italians 6-2 at Old Trafford, and now only one of the greatest collapses in the history of European football will deny them a place in the final in Gdansk.
United have effectively secured Champions League qualification already, so this game against Liverpool is more about making a point than getting the points.
Solskjaer's men have been significantly better than their old foes this term, having watched on with envy and horror last term as Jürgen Klopp and his players ended the Reds' three-decade wait for the league title. They have held Liverpool to a goalless draw at Anfield, and dumped them out of the FA Cup.
While Liverpool have been brought low by injuries and understandable fatigue, United have taken strides forward. Of course, things change quickly, and there's no guarantee that Liverpool won't come roaring back next term.
Anthony Martial and Phil Jones are still on the injured list, and Solskjaer must decide whether to rest big names like Paul Pogba or Bruno Fernandes. Given United's incredibly strong position against Roma, that seems unlikely.
Liverpool running out of chances
If Liverpool do fail to qualify for next season's Champions League, it will be a failure that will sting for a while. Injuries have bitten hard, but the Reds have still had plenty of chances to get into the top four, and they have consistently let those opportunities pass them by. In their last two games alone they have conceded late equalisers against Leeds United and Newcastle United, and if you stretch back further they have won just four of the last 12 top-flight matches.
There have of course been flashes of their brilliance. They have been excellent in wins at West Ham and Arsenal, and they have won five of their last seven Premier League away matches. At time of writing, they are four points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with five matches to go, and their run-in is fairly kind.
After this trip to Old Trafford, there are games against Southampton, West Brom, Burnley and Crystal Palace. Liverpool are 3.39/4 in the Top 4 Finish market, with Chelsea odds-on favourites.
Jordan Henderson, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk are all still out of action, and Nat Phillips is racing to be fit. If the aerially powerful centre-back doesn't make it, Fabinho may be switched to central defence from midfield.
United far too big to take the win
Given the sides' form this term, it makes no sense to me whatsoever that Liverpool are favourites here. United haven't lost a Premier League game since late November, they have no reason to rest players ahead of a dead rubber in Italy, and they have won five of their last six top-flight games.
You can back Manchester United/Draw Double Chance and Under 3.5 Goals here at 1.9520/21 on the Sportsbook's Bet Builder, and that seems a sensible play. If you look at the clubs' last ten Premier League meetings, just one of them has featured four goals or more, and eight of them have actually seen an Under 2.5 Goals bet land. If you want to take that option, you can back Under 2.5 Goals on the Exchange at 2.01/1.
There's even an argument to back 0-0 in the Correct Score market at 13.012/1, at least as a trading option. Four of these sides' last nine PL meetings have ended 0-0, and three of United's last eight league outings have featured no goals at all.
Fabinho to go into the book?
Liverpool midfielder Fabinho has been cautioned in both of Liverpool's meetings with United this term, and he has picked up seven yellow cards overall. The Brazilian has been booked in five of his last 14 appearances in all competitions.
There were four bookings altogether in the FA Cup clash between these sides, and three in the league games. I'll back Fabinho to be booked here at 6/4 on the Sportsbook.
Kevin Hatchard 2020-21 English Football P/L
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