Graeme Souness insists Liverpool will be nervous to start a game against Manchester United for the first time in years, but are expected to overtake him.
Speaking on Sky Sports’ Pitch to Post Preview podcast, Souness provided a detailed look at the shock of Super Sunday, which could see United extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to six points.
Nine wins in 11 edged Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side ahead of the champions, who have suffered from inconsistency this quarter, which Souness has largely attributed to Virgil van Dijk’s long-term injury in October.
Liverpool will be nervous
When you’re a top team, all you care about is yourself. This has been the case at Liverpool in recent years, but this season has been difficult. Liverpool are huffing and puffing, it’s a fact, it wasn’t me who chose a dramatic statement in the sky. They are not the same team, not finding the same regularity, but they occupy the second place in the championship.
They will think that even if they are not there, they are still second and very engaged in the fight. But if there’s one game United want to win, or one game Liverpool want to win, this is it. The rivalry is huge and has always been there; they are two monstrous football clubs with monstrous successes behind them.
I think for the first time Liverpool will enter the game nervous. Over the past couple of years, they have been applauded over and over again, and rightly so because the football has been magnificent. But it hasn’t been there this season, consistently. This is why they have lost points that you would not have imagined.
When at their best, they intimidate teams, especially at heights. But I don’t see it regularly this year.
United are going there as a group of players who feel they can get a result. If they do, it adds to their momentum.
If you had asked me at the start of the season if United would face Liverpool at this point in the season with a three-point lead, I would have said that would not happen. But this is the most unusual of unusual seasons I can remember, but fair play for United, they played with dogged determination and slipped straight into the fight.
No better time for United to go to Anfield
I think when you start winning games there is a confidence that starts to permeate the whole squad.
For United, they’re going to Anfield at a good time. I don’t think there is a better time. Liverpool seek consistency, and that’s a word you would have attached to them over the past three years. Their levels of consistency have been fantastic, and that’s why they’ve won some big trophies.
But this year they’re scratching their heads and I think you can go straight back to the loss of Virgil van Dijk at the start. They lost Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, dropped Fabinho in there and the general disruption of what was a very determined group of players.
If you come back at the start of the season and sat down with Jurgen Klopp and asked, ‘Who is the player that you don’t want to be injured for a long time this season? ”
Some people might say Mane. Others might say Salah. But I think they have goals in the team. But you have no one to replace Virgil van Dijk. It’s the glue that keeps everyone together at the back.
So, going back to recent history, I don’t think there has been a better time for United to go to Anfield. It is as well as it will benefit them. They will go there believing they can get a result.
Defense is a dilemma for Liverpool
The obvious dilemma is what Liverpool center-backs go with. Is he staying with Fabinho and the center-back? I think he will, which takes something away from the midfield. I think Liverpool’s concern will be center-backs. I can see Liverpool concede a goal, but on the other hand, I can see them scoring too.
The top three have to show up and the three midfielders have to show that dominance they have shown in recent years.
This midfielder should be up front all the time, very aggressive, and if you play against them you never get a chance to lift your head, you are under pressure, passing you where you harass yourself or give the ball away cheaply.
Liverpool will think they can rejoice in the midfield; I imagine Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will take a more pragmatic approach, and the biggest threat will be Bruno Fernandes. He was calm against Burnley and didn’t really show up against Man City, but we know what he’s capable of.
These are the games, which is why you are paying a lot of money for these big guys to show up. That’s why you are breaking transfer records, you expect your men to make the difference these days.
Can United win the league? Not impossible
They came back in the fight for the championship. But are they playing the type of football that suggests they can win the league? I would say no.
They have done very well. At United, when they’re doing well, the praise is huge, and when it’s not, the criticism is huge. So they weathered this storm and showed that they could cope with these pressures.
Would it be impossible for them to win the league? No, they can do it. But I go back to just a week ago, Man City, City semi-final was on another level. I think the momentum started with them too. I just think there are better teams than United right now.
On a level playing field, if you could guarantee that they all had the same luck with injuries, I don’t think United would win, but it’s not impossible.
Prediction: Liverpool borde
If that was any time in the past five years I would predict Liverpool would win all day. I can’t say that this time around because there is a problem in the middle of the defense, and I see them being vulnerable to it.
United will carry a threat, and I know it’s an old cliché to talk about Anfield, the extra man, what the crowd brings to the game: It’s not there. I played in front of them and I know how fantastic they can be, especially in this game. And it’s very difficult for a referee not to give a penalty in front of the Kop. It goes against the home side this time around.
It’s hard to call but I have to believe Liverpool will show up that day, Alisson will have a really good day, the last four will be holding on tight and Liverpool will just have too much for them that day.
Pitch to Post Preview – Liverpool vs Man Utd: Graeme Souness’ big game verdict; more: likely XIs, injury news & predictions
In a special Pitch to Post Preview Podcast we turn to Sunday’s blockbuster between Liverpool and Man Utd at Anfield.
Sky Sports Expert Graeme Souness joint Peter Smith to discuss the big game, including why the hosts will be wary of their rivals and which players should stand up and deliver for their side.
We also get the latest team news and possible starting XIs from Sky Sports News reporters. James cooper and Vinny O’Connor, while football writer Lewis jones – AKA Jones Knows – makes his pitch for what’s going to happen in the game.