Liverpool vs Manchester United- The clash of the titans.
This historic fixture has conjured up many enthralling spectacles over the years, but tomorrow’s game seems like one of the hardest to predict in recent times.
Will Klopp still ruthlessly attack even without star man, Sadio Mane, who usually is the driving force in the ventures forward?
Will Mourinho park the bus just like he did at Anfield last year, as well as many times in the past too?
Can Mourinho even afford to play defensively, given the fact that United’s noisy neighbours are leading the way with them at the top of the league?
Can United afford to drop points and allow Manchester City to charge onwards?
Will Mourinho play attacking, now that Mane has been ruled out? Does he feel more confident now without the Senegalese man to deal with?
So many questions left unanswered.
United have started the season very impressively, remaining unbeaten and issuing a statement of intent to the chasing pack, they mean business this time.
The Red Devils lead the way alongside City, and this season it already looks like the title will be heading to Manchester.
Liverpool have had a very mediocre start to proceedings. The absence of Philippe Coutinho for the first four games didn’t help whatsoever, his creative spark in the final third was dearly missed, which has ultimately cost the Reds. But, the thing that has been most detrimental is, of course, the dismal defence.
Sound familiar? Reds fans are sick and tired of the same defensive errors that have haunted them for countless years, the same errors that show no signs of halting anytime soon.
United are enjoying their best times since Ferguson was in charge, they go into this game with confidence sky high, but even though they are on firing on all cylinders, a typical Mourinho shutout masterclass seems on the cards.
This usually involves sitting deep with everyone staying in defence, absorbing the pressure of opposition attacks and then countering them.
The most classic example of this against the Reds was with Mourinho’s former side, Chelsea, in a 2-0 win at Anfield in April, 2014.
This was the game that severely dented Liverpool’s title charge in the famous 2013/14 season, when Brendan Rodgers was inches away from reaching the holy grail of English football, only to be stopped in his path thanks to dogged defending, time wasting and snide tactics.
A snatch and grab win was achieved, courtesy of two Liverpool mistakes.
The first stemmed from Demba Ba capitalising on Steven Gerrard’s infamous ‘slip’, and the second was a last minute breakaway goal, which again came from a Liverpool failure, as Iago Aspas’ short corner landed straight to Fernando Torres, who drifted through an empty Liverpool half, setting up Willian to score.
Last season, United were underwhelming to say the least, especially going forwards. Fans were drooling at the prospect of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan leading the attacking line.
They were not left drooling in awe, but instead sent to sleep in sheer boredom.
During this campaign they have found a new dynamic, however. Summer signings have bolstered the squad and goals are no longer hard to come by, but now are coming in abundance.
Because of this re-born side, would it really make sense for Mourinho to deploy defensive tactics?
The only thing holding them back is the loss of both Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba in midfield, two very physical players with the ability to stamp their authority on proceedings.
However, the home side have lost their touch going forwards, worsened by the Fab Four losing their most instrumental member- Sadio Mane. This will play into United’s hands rather favourably.
Klopp revels in playing ‘heavy metal football’, so it would be very uncharacteristic of him to park the bus. Even with the defensive frailties, it’s just not something he’d even consider, especially at home to your bitter rivals.
Mane’s loss will be damaging, but not devastating. The Reds still possess lots of talent in attack, with the likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Philippe Coutinho able to fill the void. Expect Klopp to still go out for the win at all costs, it’s just whether his nemesis will view matters in the same fashion.
With Rashord, Lukaku and co in an unforgiving mood, combined with how shaky the Reds’ backline is, you’d think Mourinho would relish letting his destructive dynamos off their leash, instead of taming them.
But old habits die hard, Mourinho is a man stuck with what he knows best.
He likes to talk the talk in press conferences about rival opposition, but when it comes to walking the walk, he shies away, and instead spark fury and frustration.
For all the hype and build up to this crunch encounter, don’t be surprised if a stalemate is the likely outcome.
Two coaches with contrasting playing styles and perceptions of game management, mixed with injury setbacks and a splash of high expectations, are the perfect ingredients for football played on a knife edge, but lacking cut-throat mentality.