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Predicting how Liverpool will line-up against Man United

Brendan Rodgers’ struggling Liverpool make the short journey along the M62 on Sunday to Old Trafford, where the Reds come head to head for the first time this season against arch rivals Manchester United.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 9, 2014: Liverpool's players line up for a team group photograph before the final UEFA Champions League Group B match at Anfield. Back row L-R: Raheem Sterling, Dejan Lovren, Martin Skrtel, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, Rickie Lambert, Jose Enrique, Jordan Henderson Front row L-R: Lucas Leiva, captain Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson, Joe Allen. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After four days of reflection following the disappointing exit from the Champions League on Tuesday, Liverpool have to pick themselves up and dust themselves down quickly for the huge clash against Louis van Gaal’s side – who, after a similarly poor start, have gone on to win their last five league fixtures in a row and occupy third place in the Premier League table.

It’s a turnaround of form that Rodgers’ men desperately need to replicate if they want to drag themselves back into contention for a top four finish, with the chances of securing Champions League qualification for successive seasons looking increasingly slim on current showing.

Liverpool are priced up at 15/4 and we fancy them to win (good list of bookmakers reviews here) so hopefully it’ll be a much needed three points and a move in the right direction.

The challenging fixture schedule for the remainder of 2014 – which will see Liverpool play their ninth game in three weeks on Sunday and four more to come before the turn of the year – poses another tricky juggling act for the Liverpool manager, who will have to make a number of changes and introduce fresh legs to his side for the crunch clash and there’s a number of changes Rodgers could make.

 

The Team

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, September 26, 2014: Liverpool's Mario Balotelli in action against Everton during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Injury news ahead of the clash is that Mario Balotelli could return to the squad having recommenced training, and Kolo Toure – who missed Tuesday night’s match through a groin injury – also trained and could make a comeback to the squad.

It had been revealed that Adam Lallana has been suffering with two cracked ribs which the club chose to keep quiet, but the England international “looks much better” according to Rodgers and is set to be involved on Sunday with shirts up for grabs.

Jose Enrique’s horror 45 minutes on Tuesday that saw him replaced by the infinitely more impressive Alberto Moreno must see the Spanish under-21 international come in to the starting team and at centre back, Mamadou Sakho should be in contention for a starting berth.

Rodgers has rotated Steven Gerrard sensibly over recent weeks, but the Liverpool boss could be tempted to play the inspirational captain for the second match running after he proved to be the man for the big occasion once more, though Lucas Leiva is one player who needs a rest from the Reds midfield.

Despite the harsh red card, Lazar Markovic’s impressive 15 minute cameo provided a rare ray of light on a miserable night, and his promising display could see him brought into the side for his pace and directness in the final third.

Javier Manquillo, Emre Can, Philippe Coutinho, Lallana and Fabio Borini are all available to provide fresh legs to the Liverpool team, having seen their action restricted in the eliminatory draw against Basel and they will be hoping to be given the opportunity to play from the start in Manchester.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, October 22, 2014: Liverpool's Emre Can in action against Real Madrid CF during the UEFA Champions League Group B match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 

The Line Up

A number of selections hang on fitness recovery ahead of the game, but Rodgers must make a number of changes to his side, firstly with the formation, and then with the back four where Moreno and the fit again Sakho should come into the side with Toure touch-and-go – but Javier Manquillo’s recent exclusion makes it unlikely he will replace Glen Johnson.

In a diamond shaped midfield, Lucas’ tiring legs might be afforded a rest and replaced by the powerful Emre Can, and Coutinho and Henderson should make up an energetic but creative midfield behind Gerrard at the tip of the diamond.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 6, 2014: Liverpool's Rickie Lambert shows his frustration at the assistant referee as his side are held to a goal-less draw against Sunderland during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Rickie Lambert is in desperate need of rest after six consecutive starts, and he should make way for Raheem Sterling to partner Mario Balotelli, unless the returnee isn’t fit enough to play.

Those changes to the Liverpool side would see the Reds line up like this:

United diamond 2

Rodgers continues to prefer 4-2-3-1 however, and in that line up he has a variety of options, including a mobile and pacey XI like this:

My 4-2-3-1 united

However, in that shape, I’d expect Rodgers to stick to a similar look and therefore with Liverpool’s starting XI looking like this come kick-off on Sunday afternoon:

squad (13)

A trip to Old Trafford to take on your arch rivals isn’t the greatest fixture to have when coming off the back of a deflating night like Tuesday, but Rodgers and his side must bounce back positively and at least produce an improved performance.

Another potential defeat and lacklustre display could have serious consequences for Rodgers but there arguably isn’t a better place to bounce back to winning ways and return to Merseyside with what would be a hugely morale boosting result.

What would your LFC XI be? Let us know in the comments below.

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