Premier League Betting Preview: Manchester United vs. Liverpool: Old Enemy in a battle for second place
Saturday lunchtime sees the rekindling of one of the fiercest rivals in the Premier League as Liverpool make the short journey to Manchester to face off with United. And there’s a lot at stake. With United’s form patchy since the turn of the year and Liverpool’s sublime, there’s only two points separating the Red Devils in second and the Reds in third.
This is a huge encounter and could go either way. Let’s start with the home side. United fans were in raptures with the January transfer business bringing in Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal, but since then the Old Trafford outfit haven’t sparkled in the way that was hoped.
Instead Sanchez has just one goal – following up his own missed penalty at home against Huddersfield. His arrival also seems to have disrupted Paul Pogba’s flow – the two stars often getting in each other’s way when trying to occupy the same space rather than clicking. It also appears to have pushed Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard to the side-lines.
United have at least won their last two games, at home against Chelsea and with a last-gasp Nemanja Matic screamer sealing a Ferguson-style comeback away at Crystal Palace on Monday night. Although they haven’t looked convincing in doing so. A much-needed improvement is required to disrupt this Liverpool team in full flow.
If United are to do so, we’re looking at Romelu Lukaku to make the difference. The big number 9 shot out the blocks this season but has since struggled with many United fans criticising the Belgian. This came into sharp focus in the dismal loss at Wembley to Spurs in January. Harry Kane bullied the United back four, while Lukaku was anonymous and isolated.
He has however, got four goals in his last four games in all competitions. But it’s the change in his demeanour that could spell trouble for Liverpool. Lukaku has been criticised for his poor record against the best sides in the division, but he went some way towards answering his critics with his goal and performance in the recent win against Chelsea. He took his goal exceptionally well and was a constant thorn in the blue rear-guard. He harried, bullied and never gave them a minute’s peace. He must do the same on Saturday for United to stand any chance of getting one over the old enemy.
Lukaku is 15/2 to score two or more, and 9/2 to score the opening goal with 21Bet.
Liverpool will be pinning their hopes on the pace, guile and goal scoring nous of their three-pronged attack. Mo Salah has rightly taken most of the plaudits for his 24 Premier League goals and eight assists, but he’s been capably assisted by Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian in particular brings the ideal blend of pace, guile and brawn making him the perfect foil for Salah. It was Firmino who was the standout performer in Liverpool’s recent win over Manchester City. If he can turn in a similar performance, Jurgen Klopp’s men could well have United on the ropes.
Firmino is 5/1 to open the scoring, while you can get odds of 6/1 for Salah to score two or more at Old Trafford with 21Bet.
It will likely be down to a centre-half partnership of Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling to stop them. Something that won’t be filling the Old Trafford faithful with confidence. Salah and Mane will be looking at dragging the pair wide into the full-back channels where Smalling in particular isn’t comfortable. If they can be successful in doing this, a Liverpool win will surely be on the cards.
Whether or not they’ll be able to pull United’s back four apart in this manner rests on the midfield battle and the form of two unlikely candidates.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been in sparkling form of late for the Anfield side – his blend of tough tackling, hard running and dribbling has been the difference in crucial games. On the other side is Scott McTominay – the United academy graduate has put in mature no-nonsense performances and has started to form a real core to the side with his partnership with Matic.
If the Matic-McTominay axis can stamp their authority on the encounter as they did in the second half against Chelsea, it will restrict Liverpool’s room and provide a platform for the likes of Pogba and Sanchez to potentially influence proceedings. If they can’t Liverpool could run riot.
As is often the case with these games, the form book can go out the window resulting in either an open attacking extravaganza or a cagey boring game for the neutrals. Klopp will be hoping for the former while Jose Mourinho will be banking on the latter.
Unfortunately for the fans, we’re going for a Jose tactical masterclass and a late 1-0 win for United. We’re backing Lukaku to continue his fine form and net once again against a top six rival banishing the hoodoo once and for all.
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