(1) When Liverpool came to Old Trafford back in October, the end seemed near for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. United had lost a shocker at Newcastle just before the international break, causing anger and frustration to fester for a fortnight before the Merseysiders brought their 100% record to Manchester. But the Reds defied the odds and held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw, which is still the only slight blemish on their Premier League record.
(2) On Wednesday, Solskjaer fielded a strong side in the FA Cup replay against Wolves. Sergio Romero stepped in for David De Gea, while Mason Greenwood replaced Marcus Rashford in the starting eleven. Other than that, though, this could be a preview of United’s lineup for the trip to Anfield.
(3) Unfortunately, Rashford didn’t sit out entirely. He came on in the second half and went down in the 76th minute with an apparent back injury. Rashford tried to gut it out, but had to be removed soon after. The extent of his injury won’t be known until closer to the weekend, but losing Rashford (and his goals) would be a huge blow to United’s chances.
Rashford's been using a bone healing device recently and had it with him again when the squad gathered pre-match. Clearly carrying an injury of some kind, regardless of the circumstances of that knock. #mufc— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) January 15, 2020
(4) After the match, Solskjaer spoke about Rashford’s achy back:
He’s had trouble with the back lately, but that is a different matter. Now, we have a different one. I don’t think it’s related, but he had to come off. I can say we will do everything we can to see and try to get him fit for Sunday, but I can’t promise.
I didn’t want to play him, but we needed the win. It has backfired. I can say we’ll do everything we can to get him fit. He’s been available and fit this season. He’s a quick healer. He’s struggled lately, but more when he’s tired.
(5) Rashford’s injury kinda overshadows everything, but United advanced to the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 win over Wolves. Despite the visitors putting the ball in the net in the first half, only to be reprieved by VAR, the Reds controlled much of the match and deservedly won on Juan Mata’s delightful breakaway chip. That marks United’s first victory against Wolves since their return to the top flight in 2018.
(6) Liverpool, on the other hand, had all week to recover after Saturday’s 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur. That match, though, showed a few cracks in the leaders’ armor. Despite Jurgen Klopp’s side holding 67% possession, Spurs (without Harry Kane) actually outshot their visitors — showing that it doesn’t take a lot of possession to generate chances against Liverpool. United probably won’t hold the ball much this weekend, but that doesn’t mean a dearth of scoring opportunities. Plus, Giovani Lo Celso and Son Heung-min both missed glorious chances to score for Spurs. The biggest lesson: Don’t miss those chances against Liverpool. This team is beatable, but it will take a standout performance.
xG map for Tottenham - Liverpool— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) January 11, 2020
a game of two halves, a suprisingly expansive, pressing Tottenham in the second half had two golden chances to equalize but... didn't pic.twitter.com/1vgvmLO6P7
(7) Liverpool boast a balanced attack with Sadio Mane (11 goals), Mohamed Salah (10 goals), and Roberto Firmino (7 goals) leading the line. They don’t get many goals elsewhere — but they don’t really need them, either. Klopp’s midfield is a pressing machine that makes any possession-based approach dangerous bordering on suicidal.
(8) Fabinho, who’s missed six weeks with an ankle injury, returned to training this week for Liverpool. While he probably won’t go straight back into the starting eleven, the defensive midfielder could make the bench. Joel Matip is also nearing a return to action.
(9) Three Liverpool players, though, missed training on Wednesday and must be considered doubtful for the weekend. Dejan Lovren has been out since December with a muscular injury, Naby Keita suffered a groin injury around New Year’s, and James Milner limped out of Liverpool’s FA Cup win over Everton earlier this month.
(10) No doubt Liverpool will win the 2019/20 Premier League. They’re already fourteen points clear of Manchester City with a game in hand — rendering this title race drama-free. But Manchester United’s fight for fourth looks to have many twists and turns ahead. Chelsea seem to have bounced back from a rough stretch, restoring their lead over the Reds to five points for the final Champions League spot. If United can get anything out of Sunday, that could go a long way toward reeling Chelsea in by season’s end.
(11) Must-read of the week: Josh Williams’s breakdown of how Liverpool uses analytics and data science to control the pitch.