It’s the big one as Liverpool take on Manchester United with more at stake than local pride and Dan Fitch believes that the home side will snatch victory…
Liverpool v Manchester United
Live on Sky Sports 1
The hosts are the most in-form team in the Premier League right now and ground out another victory on Monday night against Swansea. The 1-0 win was impressive for the fortitude that Liverpool displayed against a very impressive first-half performance from Garry Monk’s team.
Simon Mignolet was in brilliant form and typified the way that several Liverpool players who were under-performing earlier this season have turned things round over the past few weeks. That is in no small part to Brendan Rodgers’ tinkering, with the manager adapting to a three-at-the-back system that has not only cured their defensive woes but made Liverpool serial collectors of clean sheets.
Liverpool have no fresh injury worries, Jordan Ibe is a long-term casualty, while Mario Balotteli and Lucas Leiva are both approaching fitness but are unlikely to feature.
A player who has recently returned from injury is Steven Gerrard. There was speculation as to whether the captain would return to the team against Swansea, but Rodgers instead opted to use him with good effect from the bench. With Liverpool having won every game that Gerrard has not started in the Premier League, the legendary player might have to bide his time again.
Like Liverpool, United have also been in good form but unlike their rivals they have not always looked convincing while picking up results. The 3-0 victory over Spurs on Sunday was their most impressive display for quite some time but only time with tell as to whether this was a sign of things clicking, or merely down to the fact that a young Tottenham team played very poorly.
It’s hard to imagine Liverpool’s three central-defenders being given such a torrid time by Marouane Fellaini, as he gave Spurs. It’s also difficult to see Brendan Rodgers not changing things quickly to deal with Fellaini’s threat, as his tactical adaptability is a major strength.
That said, Louis van Gaal also likes to tinker and will no doubt have some tricks up his sleeve. The United manager has a few more pressing selection problems to deal with than his counterpart, with Jonny Evans suspended and Marcos Rojo and Robin van Persie injured.
Liverpool are the fairly heavy favourites at 2.186/5. Given their form this might be seen an accurate enough price but take the magnitude of the match and the talent that exists within United’s ranks into account and it begins to look a little skinny.
The draw would not be a disastrous result for either side, which makes the 3.55/2 available worth considering, while those that fancy a United win can find odds of 3.814/5.
I do fancy Liverpool to edge it and given their habit of scoring late second-half goals, the half-time/full-time market provides the best value. The draw half-time/Liverpool full-time result is priced at 5.85/1 – great odds considering that Liverpool have won four of their last eight Premier League games in such a fashion.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Wayne Rooney is now back in his best position as the spearhead of the United attack and has scored four goals in his last four appearances.
This market is very tight, with over 2.5 goals at 2.021/1 and unders at 1.9620/21. United’s last eight league games have been evenly split between overs and unders, but Liverpool have shown more consistency, with six games going under 2.5 over the same period.
To err on the side of caution I’d recommend backing both teams to score at 1.814/5. With the difference between the prices negligible, this is the safest bet.
Back the draw half-time/Liverpool full-time at 5.85/1
Back both teams to score at 1.814/5