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Liverpool are fighting for a top-four finish after a much-needed victory in midweek
Manchester United are looking to keep their slim title hopes alive this weekend
Manchester United have a poor recent record at the home of arch-rivals Liverpool
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The Red Devils have not fared well at Anfield of late, but they are playing very well at the moment and have the quality to get one over on their arch-rivals.
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It is fair to say the 2022/23 campaign will not live long in the memories of Liverpool supporters. The club has enjoyed tremendous success in recent years, winning a first Premier League title since 1990, reaching three Champions League finals (winning one) and claiming domestic silverware in the form of the FA Cup and the EFL Cup.
They have done so while playing a thrilling brand of soccer under Jurgen Klopp, whose entire ethos is perfectly suited to the club he works for. Liverpool fans have been privileged to watch his team over the last few seasons.
This term has been a struggle, however. Liverpool suffered relatively early exits from both cup competitions. They are on the brink of elimination from the Champions League after losing 5-2 to Real Madrid in the first leg of their last-16 tie. And their title hopes were extinguished long ago.
The Reds can still salvage something from an otherwise disappointing season, though. A top-four finish would be a decent outcome given Liverpool were down in mid-table a few weeks back.
They currently sit sixth in the standings after a 2-0 triumph over Wolverhampton Wanderers in a rearranged fixture in midweek. That moved Liverpool to within six points of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, on whom they have a game in hand.
The 5-2 thumping by Madrid was Liverpool’s most significant result in recent weeks, but they have actually taken 10 points from the last 12 on offer in the Premier League.
They are not exactly playing the high-octane soccer for which they have been renowned under Klopp, but Liverpool are at least starting to pick up positive results again.
Back in August, Manchester United were deep in crisis as they prepared to take on Liverpool at Old Trafford. Erik ten Hag’s team had just lost their first two games of the season to Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford, leaving them in the relegation zone.
Yet to the surprise of most, United produced a fantastic performance full of energy and aggression to win 2-1. It proved to be the spark that kick-started their season. United have not been perfect since then, but they have made huge strides since those losses to Brighton and Brentford.
The Red Devils head into the weekend in a buoyant mood. Last weekend they ended a six-year trophy drought by lifting the EFL Cup thanks to a 2-0 triumph over Newcastle United at Wembley.
On Wednesday they secured their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals, where they will face Fulham later this month. Six days before that, United advanced to the last 16 of the Europa League at the expense of La Liga table-toppers Barcelona.
And while they are outsiders, Ten Hag’s men are still in the title race as things stand. They will need both Arsenal and Manchester City to falter if they are to climb into the top spot, but that is not beyond the realms of possibility.
United are currently 11 points behind the Gunners in the first place, but they have a game in hand on both the league leaders and City. A victory on Sunday would keep their slim hopes alive, but United are ahead of schedule by even being a part of the conversation. Needless to say, no one really expected this before the Liverpool game in August.
Anfield has not been a happy hunting ground for Manchester United of late. You have to go back more than seven years to find the last time they won at the home of their arch-rivals. To underline how long ago it was, Wayne Rooney scored the winner that day.
Liverpool have outperformed Manchester United since then, but for the first time in a while the Red Devils head to Anfield feeling quietly confident.
This will not be easy, though. Klopp’s team have regressed this season, but they remain a tough nut to crack on home turf. They have lost just one of their 17 home games in all competitions since the beginning of 2022/23.
Yet even though Liverpool’s Premier League results have picked up in recent weeks, they are still not playing particularly well. United, by contrast, look like a proper team again. They are streetwise too, and will not wilt in what is likely to be a ferocious atmosphere at Anfield.
From a tactical point of view, their speed in transition could be problematic for Liverpool. Ten Hag has shown a pragmatic side this season. His Ajax team used to dominate possession in virtually every game they played, but United are more than willing to cede control of the ball in order to open up space into which they can launch counter-attacks.
It is a strategy that may well bear fruit against a Liverpool team that has looked defensively shaky all season long. Go for an away win on Sunday.
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Teams: Liverpool vs Manchester United
Location: Anfield, London, England
Date and Time: Mar. 5, 2023, 11.30 a.m. EST
How to Watch: Peacock Premium
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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