Anfield, home to one of the most successful teams in England is a daunting place to visit. The atmosphere before any game is sure to intimidate the opponent, for they know they are up against 12 men when they take on Liverpool FC.
However, we can’t say the same about them of late, can we?
Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool FC have had a substandard start to the season, and find themselves in 7th position in the league table, 7 points adrift the Manchester clubs. Their next league game is a home fixture against Manchester United. The North-West derby could not come at a better time for Man United, and at a worse time for Liverpool. The home team on the occasion have been mildly entertaining, and find themselves with a lot of areas that need to be addressed as soon as possible, else we could see them struggle for a top 4 spot, let along challenge for the title.
In terms of a head to head comparison, Manchester United hold the advantage, having won 5 of their previous 10 meetings, with Liverpool winning on 2 occasions and the teams having played out three draws.
On paper, this seems to be a hard-fought victory for Manchester United, given their current form and their defensive astuteness. However, we cannot completely rule out Liverpool on their home ground.
What’s interesting, however, is seeing how Jose Mourinho will set up his United team when they visit Anfield.
Both the Manchester clubs appear to be in a deadlock of sorts and will wait for a tiny slip-up by the other party to capitalize and gain some ground heading into the mix of things. Manchester City have had two massive tests, a home tie against Liverpool which saw them cruise to a 5-0 victory and a hard-fought 1-0 win against Chelsea. Having come out of both those encounters as the winners would give them a huge boost of confidence, and pile on further pressure on Manchester United, who will look to match, if not emulate their ‘noisy neighbours’ when they visit Anfield on the 14th of October.
Jose Mourinho’s approach to big games, in particular, has been very pedestrian. He goes into these games with the aim of damage limitation and asks his players to be ruthless with whatever chances they get. With Klopp’s Gegenpressing, Jose will look to set up his team in way to counter their high press, with a more physical and direct approach. Given Liverpool’s defensive woes, it would not come as a surprise to many if Mourinho would be willing to grind out the result, even if that means his team plays the much-maligned long ball football.
Another approach could be the usual Mourinho tactic of ‘Park the Bus’. Soak in the pressure and spring a quick counter, given United’s riches in pace up front. Mourinho could be tempted to drop Mkhitaryan and give a start to both Martial and Rashford. If that happens, it would mean Liverpool’s defence now has two more headaches in the form of the quickest players in the league. To help out the full-backs, the midfielders would be sucked into the wide positions to help out. This could lead to a drop in the pressing intensity, or lead to tiredness creeping into Liverpool’s midfield; either way, a win-win situation of sorts for the Portuguese tactician.
Or, could we see his team set up in a way we haven’t seen before? Manchester United have become slicker in their passing and attacking intensity, could we see Manchester United actually take the game to Liverpool by exploiting their weak defence with their strong attack?
Questions aplenty, the answers for which will have to be on hold till we witness the spectacle unfold.