Sport360's Brendon Netto looks at three tactical talking points that could decide the clash between Manchester United and Liverpool.
Manchester City are running away with the title but should the home team emerge victorious from the latest edition of the north west rivalry, they will move five points clear of the third-place visitors.
The encounter may even serve as a prelude to how the two teams intend on approaching their title charges next season and therefore should make for an intriguing tactical battle.
Here are a few points that could indicate where that will be won and lost.
MOURINHO MUST FIND RIGHT BALANCE
Jose Mourinho will feel the pressure to pose an attacking threat at home but he’s nothing if not pragmatic. Allow Liverpool to exercise their expertise on the counter-attack and they’ll pick you off with ease as they did against City and Arsenal recently.
In fact, they’ve scored more goals (8) from fast breakaways this season than any other team in the league. Keeping that in mind, Mourinho will ensure United remain compact in defence, perhaps asking Ashley Young to tuck in and help track Salah’s runs on the inside, while also using that solid foundation as a platform to launch a few direct assaults of their own.
LIVERPOOL NEED AN ANCHORMAN
Liverpool’s energetic, all-action style of play is typified by their front three but their midfield department is no slouch either, boasting plenty of mobility and drive of its own. They’re more than capable of overrunning United’s more sluggish core but the odds are the hosts won’t even attempt to compete in that area of the pitch, choosing to bypass it entirely.
With the monstrous Romelu Lukaku up front joined by the likes of Alexis Sanchez and perhaps Marcus Rashford should Anthony Martial be unavailable again, United may look to be a lot more direct, like Spurs were in their 4-1 win over the Reds earlier this season. As such, Jurgen Klopp should deploy a sitting midfielder so as to not leave their two centre-backs exposed on the break with either Jordan Henderson or Emre Can assigned the task.
SANCHEZ NEEDS STRUCTURE
Since Alexis Sanchez’s arrival at Old Trafford, neither him nor Paul Pogba have been able to produce their best form. Many have pointed out the duo’s fractured relationship on the pitch and the stats back it up with the Frenchman’s chances created per 90 minutes dropping drastically from 2.14 to 1.73 since the Chilean was signed.
Both are unpredictable, enjoy getting on the ball and attacking pockets of space in the final third. However, Sanchez has perhaps been afforded too much freedom to roam, which has seen him and Pogba get in each other’s way. Perhaps a more structured role for the former Arsenal man will not only aid Pogba’s output but ensure that United maintain their width and are able to stretch teams as well.