Liverpool v Manchester United: Five key battles

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A few short weeks ago the thought of a trip to Anfield would have filled Manchester United fans with dread.

However, after everything seemed to click against Tottenham in last weekend’s 3-0 win there is a renewed confidence about the Red Devils going into this tie, which could ensure another classic encounter between these bitter rivals.

Here we identify five key battles where the game could be won or lost.

Daniel Sturridge v Chris Smalling

Smalling has made just one defensive error this season (according to Squawka stats) and with three strikes to his name has scored just as many goals as Sturridge in the Premier League this term. The United man boasts better passing accuracy (88 per cent to Sturridge’s 80 per cent) and wins more duels than his rival.

However, stats are only half the picture and with the Liverpool ace nearing his best Smalling could be in for a torrid time at Anfield.

Verdict – Sturridge

Martin Skrtel v Wayne Rooney

With 91 per cent pass completion and 63 per cent duels won, Skrtel appears to be in better form that Rooney (84 per cent and 42 per cent) but the United man is relishing being back up front and has four goals from his last four games.

With Skrtel making four obvious errors this season and Rooney creating 35 clear chances and netting 11 Premier League goals the England man could have the advantage here.

Verdict – Rooney

Philippe Coutinho v Antonio Valencia

Valencia completes more passes, wins more duels and boasts better shooting accuracy than his Brazilian rival but the fact he has been tasked with adopting a more defensive mindset this term means Coutinho could be a thorn in his side.

The United man is at his best when romping forward down the flank but with the Liverpool man playing in a more advanced role and having netted four goals this term, Valencia looks likely to have dig in at the back.

Verdict – Coutinho

Emre Can v Ashley Young

Young has been one of the few success stories under Louis van Gaal this season. He may have scored just one goal but he has created 20 clear chances and could give Can nightmares down the left wing

Can has proven inferior to Young in both shooting accuracy and chances created this season and with the United man in good form could, like Valencia, be restricted to defensive duties in Sunday.

Verdict – Young

Liverpool v David de Gea

As a team less than half of Liverpool’s shots are on target and this will need to improve if they are to have arguably the best goalkeeper in the league picking the ball out of his net.

Liverpool have scored just seven goals from set pieces, while De Gea has claimed 92 per cent of crosses that have come his way this term.

With the Spaniard conceding just 0.9 goals per game, Sturridge and co will have to be on top form to win this one.

Verdict – De Gea

Result – United edge the key battles 3-2 thanks to their incredible goal keeper . But with Sturridge set to give Smalling a stern test the best bet could be a United victory with both teams scoring – a result available at 11/2 with Ladbrokes.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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