Kick-off: 1630, 17/01/2021
TV: Sky Sports
Manchester United face the acid test of their Premier League title credentials when visiting Liverpool and would no doubt settle for a share of the spoils on Merseyside.
The Red Devils are three points clear of the champions at the summit after winning nine and drawing two of their last 11 top-flight fixtures.
Their hosts have faltered in this competition since Christmas, so 14/5 for a stalemate appeals as our first Liverpool vs Man Utd prediction.
A Look At Liverpool’s Betting Odds
Liverpool were odds-on favourites to successfully defend their title after beating Tottenham here and romping to a 7-0 victory at Crystal Palace in mid-December.
However, the Reds were then held to draws by lowly West Brom and Newcastle prior to a 1-0 defeat at Southampton.
Jurgen Klopp will be hoping that a 4-1 FA Cup win over a youthful Aston Villa line-up has given his team a much-needed boost.
Sadio Mane bagged a brace in that tie, while Georginio Wijnaldum and Mohamed Salah were also on target.
“It was a tricky one,” commented Klopp. “I have never had this kind of challenge in my life when you have no idea who you are playing.
“All our preparations for the game went in the bin and we had to start again.
“We scored an early goal and then didn’t play quickly enough and didn’t move fast enough.
“These are football problems and we solved them with football in the second half.”
There is no doubt that Liverpool have been lacking the rhythm associated with them over the past couple of years, though.
Injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip make them vulnerable at the back, while losing Diogo Jota to a knee problem following his bright start was another blow.
Last Liverpool line-up: Kelleher, R Williams, N Williams, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Milner, Henderson, Jones, Mane, Salah, Minamino.
Klopp will assess Matip in training before deciding whether to start the centre-back, who has missed three matches with a groin problem.
If Matip is not ready, Klopp will choose between youngster Rhys Williams or Nat Phillips. Meanwhile, midfielder Naby Keita remains sidelined with a muscle problem which has kept him out since December 19.
A Look At Manchester United’s Betting Odds
With a hard-fought 1-0 triumph at Burnley, United grabbed their chance to go top at this stage of the season for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson bowed out as a champion in 2012-13.
Paul Pogba’s deflected strike in the second half proved decisive, after Harry Maguire had an earlier header controversially ruled out.
“We’re almost halfway through the season, so it’s a little bit of an indication of where you’re at,” said Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “But no-one will remember the league table on the 12th of January.”
However, the 1999 treble hero is clearly excited by the prospect of this challenge, stating: “We’re looking forward to it.
“Of course, you enjoy being where we are at any time. If it’s the first game or the last game, it’s a big, big difference.
“We’re going to go in there knowing that we play against the team that’s been by a mile the best in the country for the last year and a half.
“They’re champions by right and we’re looking forward to it and it’s a great test of where we’re at against a good team.”
Pogba’s resurgence, alongside the continued excellence of Bruno Fernandes, has given Solskjaer the opportunity to build a solid formation around that pair.
Eric Bailly’s form in partnership with Maguire is another fillip, as he possesses the extra pace and athleticism to compliment the England defender’s aerial dominance.
United’s failures in high-profile matches over the past year or so is a concern, with a recent 2-0 loss to neighbours City being a fourth straight semi-final defeat.
This is a chance to make a statement of intent, though, and 7/1 for Marcus Rashford to open the scoring is added to our Liverpool vs Man Utd betting tips.
He has netted three times in his last four starts against this weekend’s opponents.
Last Man Utd line-up: De Gea, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw, Wan-Bissaka, Pogba, Fernandes, Matic, Cavani, Martial, Rashford.
Forward Anthony Martial picked up an apparent hamstring complaint in the win at Burnley and will be given a late fitness test but defenders Brandon Williams and Phil Jones are definite absentees.
Aston Villa 1-4 LIVERPOOL – Sadio Mane (2), Georginio Wijnaldum, Mohamed Salah
Burnley 0-1 MAN UTD – Paul Pogba
Head-to-head: Liverpool 2-0 Man Utd, Man Utd 1-1 Liverpool, Man Utd 0-0 Liverpool, Liverpool 3-1 Man Utd, Man Utd 2-1 Liverpool, Liverpool 0-0 Man Utd
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