Manchester United vs Liverpool – 5:30pm local time on Saturday, September 12, 2015 at Old Trafford
TV: Sky Sports (UK), NBC Sports (US), Fox Sports (Australia)
$1.95 at Sportsbet.com
W-D-L record: 2-1-1
Table position: 5th
Draw – $3.50 at Bet365
$3.50 at www.Bet365.com
W-D-L record: 2-1-1
Table position: 7th
Last five EPL meetings:
Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United
Manchester United 3-0 Liverpool
Manchester United 0-3 Liverpool
Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United
Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool
It’s not often you can say that neither Manchester United nor Liverpool look like top-four material, but there are one or two murmurs to that effect ahead of the first North West derby of Premier League 2015-16.
Their early-season performances have been notable for a rather worrying lack of goals, with only five scored between them across a combined eight league matches.
Indeed, Juan Mata is now the only remaining goalscorer on the Red Devils’ rosters this season after his opening strike in the 2-1 defeat at Swansea City on matchday four.
That’s because Adnan Januzai – the man who netted the winner at Aston Villa – is now out on loan, while the 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in round one came courtesy of a Kyle Walker own goal.
Nevertheless, online bookmaker Sportsbet.com has United pegged as $1.95 favourites this Saturday – despite the lingering uncertainty around who will start in goal.
Argentine import Sergio Romero has held down the role so far this season, but only because David de Gea was gearing up for a move to Real Madrid.
That move fell through in embarrassing fashion due to mishandled paperwork, and it is as yet unclear whether de Gea will figure in United manager Louis van Gaal’s plans at all between now and the January transfer window.
There is also a bit of grumbling among the Devils faithful about the wisdom in forking out some £36 million for Anthony Martial – a teenage striker who scored nine goals in 35 appearances for AS Monaco last season.
But if the situation isn’t altogether rosy at Old Trafford, at least the Mancunians can rest assured that things are looking grimmer still at the other end of the M62.
Liverpool ($4.50 at Bet365.com) were utterly stunned two weekends ago as West Ham United scored three unanswered goals to take all the points at Anfield – something they hadn’t done in more than 50 years.
The Reds had prided themselves on their defensive discipline prior to that game, but it all came unstuck as the likes of Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez were woefully exposed by the Hammers’ lightning counterattacks.
Their problems were further compounded by Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who received his marching orders after half time when he picked up a second yellow card.
Now missing Coutinho’s creative influence, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers must have serious concerns about where the goals are going to come from at Old Trafford.
The Merseysiders, like United, have struggled to find the back of the net this season, with only two successful strikes in four outings – one of which, against Bournemouth, was clearly in breach of the offside rule.
The beneficiary of that dubious non-decision was Christian Benteke, who has played well without getting a whole lot of quality service since his big-money move from Villa Park over the summer.
And with Daniel Sturridge still in the recovery room, Rodgers’ attacking options look thinner than ever now that Raheem Sterling, Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini have all sought pastures news.
The Irish tactician will take no comfort from Liverpool’s recent record against their arch-rivals, either.
The five-time European champions have lost six of their last eight clashes with United in all competitions, including four defeats from five excursions to the Theatre of Dreams.
That ledger also features a double whammy last term, with United winning 3-0 at home and 2-1 away (with Steven Gerrard sent off after being on the field about 45 seconds, for good measure).
Manchester Utd vs. Liverpool match betting predictions
Man United to win – $1.95 at www.Sportsbet.com
United to lead at half time and win – $3.10 at CrownBet
Correct score 1-0 United – $7 at WilliamHill.com
Big derbies are never easy to call, especially when both sides have yet to display anything like their best form. But with Coutinho suspended and Henderson still battling for fitness, it’s hard to see Liverpool getting it done without both their most creative player and their energetic skipper. Don’t expect United to smash them off the park, though – at least not as far as the scoreline is concerned.
Manchester United first goalscorer picks
Juan Mata – $8.50 at www.Bet365.com
As the only league scorer remaining on United’s list this term, and the man who bagged the opener at Swansea last time out, the Spaniard has to figure among the contenders for first goalscorer. He also has a good track record against Liverpool, having netted three times against them last season.
Wayne Rooney – $6 at Sportsbet
The drought has to end eventually. The England captain became his nation’s all-time leading goalscorer on Tuesday, albeit from the penalty spot, but the fact he’s been finding the net in both European and international football has to translate to league goals sooner or later.
Best bets for Liverpool first goalscorer
Christian Benteke – $7.50 at Sportsbet.com
With Coutinho out, there is almost no competition for the Liverpool first goal markets. Benteke has scored once (questionably) and come close a few more times this season, and he will have to bring his shooting boots if the Reds are to really trouble United.
Roberto Firmino – $11 at Bet365
Liverpool’s other big-money summer signing has shown glimpses of class without really stamping his authority on a game. But he knows where the goals are, as his record in Germany attests, and he could well be given more license to roam this week with his compatriot, Coutinho, out of action.
The big question is who will take the gloves. It’s hard to see the famously stubborn van Gaal handing back de Gea’s starting spot right away, so expect Romero to keep his place for now.
The other hot topic is whether or not we will get a glimpse of football’s most expensive teenager. Given the fierce nature of the United-Liverpool rivalry, it would be surprising if Martial was thrown straight into the deep end this weekend.
Possible Man Utd XI: Romero; Matteo, Smalling, Blind, Shaw; Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger; Mata, Herrera, Memphis; Rooney.
That red card against the Irons means Coutinho will sit out this week as he serves a one-match ban. That will give the likes of Roberto Firmino and Jordon Ibe the chance to step up as creator in chief.
Reds captain Jordan Henderson is said to be progressing well on his way back from a heel injury, but reports in the UK press this week claim the England midfielder remains a big doubt for the Old Trafford trip. Adam Lallana (thigh) is no certainty, either.
Possible Liverpool XI: Mignolet; Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Gomez; Can, Lucas; Milner, Firmino, Ibe; Benteke.
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