Manchester United travel to Liverpool this weekend in the first real test of the Reds’ season. As part of our build-up to Saturday’s early Premier League kick off - remember that you can’t be drunk all day if you don’t start in the morning - we spoke to Matt from The Liverpool Offside. Annoyingly, he turns out to be a decent bloke. Check out our Q&A below.
tBB: Jürgen Klopp has now been in charge for two years. Are you happy with what he's done so far?
LO: Overall, my answer is yes. But that’s definitely colored by my optimism for what he might do in the future. The team looks “together” under Klopp but we had the same worrying defensive instability with Rodgers so not too many Liverpool supporters are happy with the progress there. Despite a tumultuous corner of the Liverpool dark web that's conjured and spread #KloppOut, most fans still see Klopp as a sharp manager and the best option for the club. I could use a lot less Ragnar Klavans in the future, though.
tBB: Klopp's record in cup competitions is...not great. But he showed with Dortmund that he can build a team that can last for the marathon of a league-winning campaign. What are your specific goals for this season?
LO: You’ve caught me at perhaps my most pessimistic since the season started. My goals are not too grandiose for the Premier League table. Right now, getting into the top four seems like a big ask. That’s partly down to an impressively competitive group of teams vying for top spots and partly down to the erosion of joy that comes with regularly underperforming against opposition from lower down the table.
I’m slightly more bullish on our Champions League prospects. The team is a little out of it right now but I think Klopp is in his element in European competition. Let's get out of the group and show some magic in the knock-out rounds. I’m a simple man with reasonable desires, Brent.
tBB: Both of our teams' (arguably) best players are missing through injury. How do you expect Klopp to set up the team to compensate for Sadio Mané's absence?
LO: Coutinho probably comes further forward on the right and the midfield should include Can, Wijnaldum and Henderson. Mané’s absence is unfortunate. More than unfortunate. But we just completed a stretch without him in the team due to suspension so it won’t be too much of a shake up for the players out there.
tBB: Are there any specific match-ups that you're concerned about? Where do you think this game will be won or lost?
LO: Lukaku and Lovren is certainly a match-up I’m not looking forward to. Also, Rashford and Lovren, Martial and Lovren. De Gea and Lovren. Ultimately, though, from a Liverpool perspective, I think the game will be won or lost on the wings. Can United stop Salah and Coutinho and can they stop them feeding Roberto Firmino in the middle.
From a United perspective, putting a significant amount of pressure on Liverpool’s defense through counter attacks and set-pieces should be Plan A for Mourinho. Just pop a ball into the box and the odds seem to be pretty good to get a shot off. Headers, footers. Whatever you guys like.
tBB: Most United fans would bite your hand off for a chance to sign Mané. If you could sign any United player, who would it be?
LO: Probably David De Gea, as much for his ability as for the opportunity to quell the constant tension between Liverpool fans and Liverpool’s goalkeepers. Mignolet is a tremendous shot stopper with something missing and Loris Karius is still just a great, big, foxy question mark.
tBB: Ander Herrera is almost sure to start on Saturday, and will be at Full Snide. Who is he most likely to tempt into a red card challenge and/or get sent off for tackling himself? My money would be on Henderson.
I’d say Can is probably the most likely in either case to be caught up in some shenanigans with Herrera. Once the bull gets his ire up and is motoring into full stride, unexpected things can happen. But, hey, let’s not forget the oft-rash challenges from Alberto Moreno. I mean, this match-up always has the potential to be a treasure trove of unpredictable fiascos.
Gerrard going full neanderthal, stamping on Herrera. Nani sat on the pitch and cried that one time. Silly stuff.
tBB: Finally, a prediction for the final score?
LO: Liverpool haven’t been very convincing of late but the players and the Anfield crowd will be well up for this one. And we usually do well against teams at the top. So I think we’ll get a couple goals. But, our defense likes to keep things interesting so, a couple of concessions are probably in the cards, too, considering United’s attacking options. 2-2. Shake hands, no troubles.