Everything that you need to know ahead of Sunday’s match:
(1) It’s Liverpool again — this time in the fourth round of the FA Cup. And, based on Liverpool’s shocking 1-0 loss to Burnley on Thursday, this weekend’s match takes on even more significance. Will Jurgen Klopp shift his focus to the FA Cup with his side now six points behind the leaders? Either way, Liverpool will be well up for this one after seeing their four-year home winning streak snapped by the Clarets.
(2) Manchester United, on the other hand, enter this cup tie fresh off a 2-1 win over Fulham. The Reds once again fell behind on their travels, but quickly regrouped and Edinson Cavani equalized soon after. In the second half, Paul Pogba’s 65th minute winner sent United back to the summit.
(3) Last week’s 0-0 draw between these two sides will hopefully prove to be nothing more than a bland appetizer to Sunday’s main course. Liverpool dominated possession in the early going, but struggled to put their chances on target — letting Manchester United off the hook for a poor start. After the break, though, United found their footing and could have stolen the points if either Bruno Fernandes or Paul Pogba had been able to beat Alisson.
(4) Unfortunately, Manchester United could be without one of their standout performers from last weekend’s draw at Anfield. Victor Lindelöf missed the Fulham win because of that nagging back injury, throwing his availability for this cup tie into doubt. The center back made ten clearances against Liverpool — the most by any United player in a Premier League match so far this season.
Solskjaer says Victor Lindelof is absent, as he still has problems with his back. He didn't want to take any chances and he hopes he will be ready for this weekend. [MUTV] pic.twitter.com/Ox3ZFJufYG— United Zone (@ManUnitedZone_) January 20, 2021
(5) The recent Liverpool scoring drought continues to baffle fans and pundits alike. A year after scoring 85 goals in the league, Liverpool are running well behind that pace this season — despite the continued availability of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mo Salah. Liverpool have now gone four Premier League matches in a row without scoring, which last happened during the Gerard Houllier era.
(6) Perhaps it’s a domino effect from the defensive injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip (although he returned against Burnley on Thursday), and Joe Gomez. That forced Jurgen Klopp to shift Fabinho and Jordan Henderson to center back, robbing Liverpool’s midfield of its hard-pressing intensity, which in turn leaves the front line facing a more settled opposition defense.
(7) Roberto Firmino is taking a lot of the blame. His all-around game at the forward position remains pretty strong, but the Brazilian’s wastefulness in front of goal and questionable shot selection has become a big problem. Only Patrick Bamford of Leeds has blown more big chances than Firmino’s eight this season.
(8) On Thursday night, Klopp lightly rotated his side for Burnley’s visit to Anfield — resting Firmino and Salah (though they both came on before the hour mark) and holding Jordan Henderson out with a slight muscular problem. The whole match was oddly low-energy from Liverpool, with only rare moments of excitement and intensity — and not a whole lot of pressing until the desperate latter stages. In the first half, Divock Origi had a clean run at goal but smacked his shot against the crossbar with just the keeper to beat. A shocking miss that perfectly sums up the past few weeks for Liverpool.
(9) One player who deserves a chance to spur Liverpool’s moribund attack back to life is Takumi Minamino. The Japan international scored in last month’s 7-0 demolition of Crystal Palace, but was then stuck on the bench for the next four league matches. A small consolation: Minamino came on in the last ten minutes against Burnley as Liverpool chased an equalizer.
John Aldridge: “I think it’s strange he [Klopp] hasn’t looked at Minamino with Firmino below his best.— Anfield Edition (@AnfieldEdition) January 20, 2021
“I thought he might have got 25 minutes at least against United but for some reason, he is not getting the time.”
(10) Klopp on Liverpool’s woeful start to 2021:
It is not the luckiest period of our lives, for sure not. But I think it would be a bit cheap to put it all on that — that we have not enough luck or in a specific moment. I think our problem is the decision-making in the moment.
It’s not cool to mention it now, but we won games with lesser possession against Burnley, with lesser chances against Burnley, and we won them. Tonight, we didn’t win because we didn’t score in the situations. When I look at the game back now and when I think about it — in all the interviews I had enough time to think a little bit about it — how is it possible that you lose that game? But we lost it. That’s our, and that means my, fault.
(11) The winner of this tie will host either Doncaster Rovers or West Ham United in the next round. In the third round, the Hammers went on the road and defeated non-league Stockport County in pretty rough conditions, so David Moyes’s side should be well-prepared to take on League One’s Rovers.