Who will win the North West Derby?
By Joe Harker
The North West Derby is one of the key fixtures of the weekend as Manchester United face off against Liverpool as both teams attempt to secure their places in the top four and gain bragging rights over fierce rivals. The reverse fixture was a 0-0 draw as United shut out the fearsome attack of Liverpool at the cost of their own goal threat and fans will likely be hoping for a more entertaining game this time around.
Although he selected a defensive strategy that saw United leave Anfield with a commendable draw, United manager Jose Mourinho was heavily criticised for not playing the attacking football expected of his club. While he could perhaps justify shutting up show for the away trip there is more pressure on Mourinho to play a more aggressive game as the home side. Liverpool are in much better form now than they were earlier in the season and will be a tougher challenge, but the onus is on Manchester United to attack at their own ground.
Perhaps United can take heart from their last two Premier League games where they showed mental strength to come back from bad positions and win against Chelsea and Crystal Palace. While the first half performances were poor the second half displays were impressive and if United can play like that they could be confident of winning. However, if they have yet another slow start and a poor first half they could be badly punished by Liverpool.
Ciaran Kelly of the Manchester Evening News believes United are posed with a tactical dilemma after their pair of comeback wins. They played best after changes were made to switch to a more aggressive style and that could play right into Liverpool's hands, who are at their best when opponents adopt an open and attacking style that is vulnerable to the counter attack.
Sadio Mane of Liverpool believes his club are in great form and insists they can beat anyone. They have won four of their last five Premier League matches and took the midweek Champions League fixture against Porto as an opportunity to rest key players for the derby. While Manchester City are the only away team to snatch a win at Old Trafford this season if there is any other club that could beat United on their own turf it is Liverpool.
The Liverpool Echo reports that the club's full backs could be the key to defeating United. They quote former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher who suggested the decision to use Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold has helped give the team more options and defensive stability.