Manchester United look to stay hot against rivals Liverpool
Manchester United (11-6-3, 6th in EPL) host long-time rivals Liverpool (13-5-2, T-4th) this Sunday at Old Trafford as the Red Devils try to earn a tenth-straight victory in all competitions and inch closer to a Champions League qualification slot and the top of the Premier League table.
United are England's hottest club at the moment, winning its last six Premier League fixtures dating back to December 11th at White Hart Lane.
Liverpool, on the other hand, limp into Old Trafford coming off a 1-0 defeat to Southampton and a 0-0 draw to Second-tier Plymouth Argyle in its last two contests. Factoring in a nonexistent attack and shaky defensive back of late, boss Jurgen Klopp downplayed Sunday's match treating it like any other.
"It is not about making it bigger than it actually is," said Klopp. "You can be 10th and they can be first, or they are 15th and we are first -- it makes no difference to the game.
"If we can win there it would be nice but there are a lot of games to play and a lot of points which you should get and these are only three of them."
Klopp, a tested manager with top European experience, presumably said this with the hopes of getting his men prepared for a wildly determined and efficient Manchester side. Focused and patient is exactly what they'll need to be if they have any chance at a beneficial result. Liverpool has lost 11 of its last 14 Premier League visits to Old Trafford.
United boss Jose Mourniho--dressed in his usual form of a smirk--took a slight jab at Klopp when talking to reporters, "He's as motivated as I am, I'm not sure if he's so calm as I am."
All in all the knee-slapping comment from Mourinho will mean absolutely nothing to the outcome of Sunday's match.
"I don't think Jose or myself, no matter how much we want to win, can make the difference," said Klopp. "The players have to perform, that's how it always is. We were ready for it [in March] and we will be ready again."
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is expected to return to the starting eleven after missing Tuesday's win over Hull City with a cold. Eric Bailly is on international leave with Cote d'Ivoire's Africa Cup of Nations campaign.
Liverpool is dealing with the hefty absences of Jordan Henderson to a heel injury and Sadio Mane, who is with the Senegal national team in the Africa Cup of Nations tournament. However, Brazilian midfielder Phillipe Coutinho should be back in the starting lineup after re-damaging his ankle ligament. Coutinho missed Liverpool's previous nine matches before playing against Southampton.
The last time these two clubs met was in October when Liverpool held Manchester United to a mere 35% possession in a scoreless draw at Anfield.
Expect another evenly fought battle until the final whistle is blown.
Prediction: Manchester United 1, Liverpool 1