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How will Liverpool, Man United line up?

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Liverpool host Manchester United this Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Premier League leaders welcome their bitter rivals to Anfield.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

With Jurgen Klopp‘s side 14 points clear at the top of the table, Man United would love to play the role of spoilers and they are the only team to take points from Liverpool so far this season as they are in a battle for a top four finish. And, just leaving this here, Man United have only lost one of their last 11 Premier League games against Liverpool…

The big team news surrounding this game is whether or not Marcus Rashford will be fit after coming on as a sub in the FA Cup replay against Wolves, then injuring his back and having to come off 16 minutes later.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a big decision to make as it is certainly not worth risking Rashford’s long-term fitness, even for a game as important as this one. With Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay injured, United’s midfield will likely be manned by Fred and Matic, with either Jesse Lingard or Andreas Pereira playing ahead of them and Mata starting in place of Rashford on the left. In defense it will be interesting to see if Brandon Williams gets the nod over Luke Shaw as he continues his impressive rise, while the rest of the back four picks itself.

The big worry for United is that if Rashford is out injured, they will lose a lot of their pace on the counter as their plan will likely be to sit back and look to hit Liverpool on the break. The gamble will then be whether or not it makes sense to play Mason Greenwood in attack to replace Rashford, with the teenager showing huge potential but an atmosphere like the one at Anfield may be too risky.

As for Klopp, things are very straightforward for him. Liverpool Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren back in training after their lengthy absences but it is unlikely the two center backs will start given Joe Gomez looks steady once again after a run of games alongside the silky brick wall that is Virgil Van Dijk. Oxlade-Chamberlain will play alongside Henderson and Wijnaldum in midfield with Keita and Milner out injured, while Fabinho is also back in training but is unlikely to be rushed back. The front three and full backs pick themselves.

Below we share our potential starting lineups for both teams for the intense battle at Anfield this Sunday.


LIVERPOOL (4-3-3)

—– Alisson —–

— Alexander-Arnold — Gomez — Van Dijk — Robertson —

—- Henderson —- Wijnaldum —- Chamberlain —-

—- Salah —- Firmino —- Mane —-


MAN UNITED (4-2-3-1)

—– De Gea —–

— Wan-Bissaka — Lindelof — Maguire — Williams —

—- Fred —- Matic —-

—- James —- Pereira —- Mata —-

—– Martial —–

Liverpool readying for imminent return of 3 injured players

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One of the most impressive parts of Liverpool’s dominance this season has been the number of injuries Jurgen Klopp has been saddled with amid heavy fixture congestion. That’s about to be somewhat alleviated.

Especially along the back line, Klopp faced an injury crisis after center-backs Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren went down with long-term injuries, while fill-in Fabinho was also left sidelined after deputizing at the back for a bit. All three should now be set to return soon, according to the German boss.

Speaking ahead of the club’s weekend match against Manchester United, Klopp was vague but suggested he expects all three to be in contention to play on Sunday as they return to training shortly. “I wait really until they are on the pitch and somebody tells me they are allowed to do the full session,” Klopp told the official Liverpool website. “It looks like Joel will be in, it looks like Fabinho will be in maybe a day later, I’m not sure. Dejan, maybe he can be in as well.”

Matip’s return is maybe the most welcome of the news, considering the 28-year-old had cemented a spot as Virgil Van Dijk‘s first-choice center-back partner through the back half of last season and first half of this campaign. He has been missing since late October with a knee injury, having made just seven Premier League appearances this season.

Lovren stood in for Matip once the latter went down injured, but that didn’t last long as the Croatian international suffered a hamstring injury in early December, having made just eight league appearances himself. He went down in the 3-0 win over Bournemouth, replaced just before halftime.

Midfielder Fabinho had occasionally moved to the back line as well to serve as cover, but he also suffered an injury and has been missing since late November. An ankle injury felled the Brazilian who was rounding into form in the Liverpool midfield and also performed well as a fill-in defender. He has missed eight league matches but could be on his way back soon.

The host of returners for Liverpool are returning at an opportune time. Liverpool has back-to-back tough Premier League games against Manchester United and Wolves less than a week apart, followed by an FA Cup match next weekend and a visit to West Ham three days later. The Champions League knockout stags also begin in about a month, so getting returners up to speed soon will be of the utmost importance.

Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur v. Liverpool

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Tottenham Hotspur would love to be the club to end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season when the two sides meet in North London on Saturday (Watch Live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Jose Mourinho insists his club believes it can a result despite the dour mood accompanying Harry Kane’s injury.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Liverpool is facing injuries, too, but its trident remains healthy and led by Player of the Season candidate Sadio Mane.

The Reds hold a 13-point lead on the Premier League field and have a match-in-hand on everyone except West Ham United.

Spurs are still very much a part of the race for the Top Four should they be able to again navigate a long Kane absence. Tottenham is six points back of fourth place Chelsea.


Injuries/suspensions

Spurs: OUT —  Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris, Ben Davies, Tanguy Ndombele, Moussa Sissoko. QUESTIONABLE — Danny Rose.

Liverpool: OUT — Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Fabinho, James Milner, Naby Keita, Nathaniel Clyne. QUESTIONABLE — Xherdan Shaqiri.


Probable lineups

Spurs: Gazzaniga; Vertonghen, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Sessegnon, Dier, Lo Celso, Dele, Aurier; Lucas, Son.

Liverpool: Alisson, Robertson, Van Dijk, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Mane, Firmino, Salah.


What they’re saying

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho on facing Liverpool: “It’s the best team in our competition, just to say that – I could say more than that. We would prefer to play against them with everybody available. … But again that’s the way it is and we worked hard in the week, and the boys that are available, of course they are happy to play and when somebody doesn’t play you open the opportunity for somebody else, and we know the situation. We know how good they are, we can imagine that in this room only two persons think that we can win. Maybe only two, but we believe (puts his arm around Spurs’ press officer). We have to believe. If you don’t believe, get out man.”

Jurgen Klopp on Jose Mourinho: “A world-class manager with a specific mindset. He wants to win. I respect that a lot. Each situation his team is in he tries to use. That is how managers work. The good news is, we don’t play. We send out two teams and we have to make sure it works out. I don’t think anyone wants to play us right now. Spurs are never easy but they are now so let’s see.”


Prediction

Liverpool’s biggest question mark is in the midfield, but Tottenham’s hit there, too. We imagine this one will be a bit cagier than usual, perhaps even a surprise 1-1.

Liverpool sweeps aside Blades at Anfield

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The party plan for Liverpool’s arrival as Premier League champions appears to be a waltz.

The Reds danced past Sheffield United 2-0 at Anfield with little worry, getting goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

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Liverpool increases its lead to 13 points and still holds a match-in-hand on the chasing pack. The Reds outshot the Blades 19-3 and had 74 percent of the ball.

The two goals come against the third stingiest defense in the league. Sheffield United now sits eighth with 29 points.


Three things we learned

1. Reds score on Blades two let-downs: It’s nothing new that Liverpool is quality on the break, but the Premier League leaders were merciless given two chances at Anfield. The first was Baldock slipping to the turf to allow Robertson to set up Salah, but the second was like a mouse who spied free cheese.

Alisson claimed a looping cross and saw acres of space on his left. A throw to Robertson was quickly at the feet of Mane, who tore down the left before combing with Salah to make it 2-0.

2. Henderson adds to his highlight reel: Twenty-two year old Dean Henderson continues to make a case to both England and parent club Manchester United. The Blades loanee made an incredible stop on Mohamed Salah early in the contest, and had clear command of his box aside from a freak chipped cross from Salah that tapped the post.

3. Keita injury concern: Naby Keita picked up an injury in warm-ups, plugging James Milner into the Starting XI. Keita had been a revelation in recent weeks, looking exactly like the player he was for RB Leipzig before arriving at Anfield. Liverpool is deep but Keita gives them another level, their best midfield three likely involving him, Fabinho, and Georginio Wijnaldum.

Man of the Match: Salah and Roberto Firmino each had five shot attempts, but the Egyptian’s lightning quick finish to open the scoring was it. Andrew Robertson was also quite good for the presumptive champs.


The festive gifts are carrying over to the New Year for Liverpool, as George Baldock fell down tracking a cross. That allowed Andrew Robertson an unimpeded path to cross for Salah. No problem. 1-0.

It could’ve been two, but Dean Henderson leapt to paw a Salah flick away from frame after Jordan Henderson spotted the Egyptian’s run.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Mane came down the left and fed Georginio Wijnaldum, who maneuevered in traffic to whip an 18-yard shot wide of the goal.

Henderson saved a Salah shot again in the 30th minute.

The Blades kept the damage at one until the 65th minute, a break fired down the left side. Henderson stopped Mane’s close-range effort, but the Senegalese was first to the rebound.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool v. Wolves

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Wolverhampton Wanderers look preserve their good form – most recently showcased against Manchester City – when they visit Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday (Watch Live at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Sunday’s bout will see both clubs meet for the first time this season.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

With an instant-classic, 3-2 comeback win against City on Thursday, Wolves sit fifth on the table, while Liverpool – as we all know – are unbeaten and on pace to break the all-time most points record (100) set in 2018.

With four games in two days, are either side set to make drastic changes to their side? With the chance to leapfrog Chelsea with a win, it’s unlikely Wolves will, although it’s likelier Liverpool will elect to make a change or two.


Injuries/suspensions

Liverpool: OUT —  Dejan Lovren (hamstring), Fabinho (hamstring), Joel Matip (knee), Nathaniel Clyne (ACL), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (ankle)

Wolves: OUT — Willy Boly (ankle), Morgan Gibbs-White (back)


Probable lineups

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Lallana, Milner, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Wolves: Rui Patricio; Dendoncker, Coady, Saiss; Doherty, Neves, Joao Moutinho, Vinagre; Traore, Jimenez, Jota.


What they’re saying 

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp on how dangerous Wolves will be: “Very – very, unfortunately. I really think the job Nuno is doing there is incredible with all the Europa League stress. I think at the beginning of the season they realized a little bit, ‘Oh, that’s different’. But now they are settled completely there, they are there again, Jimenez and Jota are scoring again. They had to change a little bit the last line to last year; Bennett and Boly are not playing consistently so they had to change that, but they have good options there. Traore finally found his manager, who found a position for him – he started as a wing-back and now he can even play in the front three. An exceptional player, as a kid he was already exceptional when he played for Barca I think, probably the quickest player in the league. So, a lot of really good things there and that makes it really difficult to play against them, of course. But it should be difficult against us as well, that’s the plan.”

Traore on Wolves’ thrilling comeback against Manchester City: “This team is amazing. We fight until the end, whatever the situation. That’s what we did today and I’m so happy for the team. Every one of us has worked so hard, we believed we could get this result.”

“Liverpool are a great team and are many points in front. We will fight to give our best.”


Prediction

13 points clear of Leicester City and with a jam-packed schedule ahead, it’s expected for Klopp and company to go into Sunday’s game with bit of a free-and-easy attitude. That said, an inspired Wolves will still remain outweighed by the Reds’ chemistry and excessive firepower, but the bout should still be an authentic showdown. Liverpool, 2-1.