In keeping with the times, the two things we’re about to say would’ve sounded totally bizarre this time last year.
Firstly, there’s an argument that Manchester United travel to Liverpool as favourites this Sunday.
Bruno Fernandes is leading a title charge for Man UnitedAFP
Secondly, if they do win, it would represent a genuine stride towards their first Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
Never mind last year, that would’ve sounded outrageous last month.
But in this bizarre 2020/21 campaign, the line between club-in-crisis and title contenders appears to be a thin one.
Right now, Liverpool are winless in their last three league games, having scored just one goal, despite a run of seemingly favourable fixtures.
Last season, the Reds would’ve brushed aside the likes of West Brom, Newcastle and Southampton, but Jurgen Klopp’s fast and furious machine seems to have stalled.
Klopp hasn’t had much to smile about in recent weeksGetty Images
It had looked like the champions would pick up where they left off last season after racing to the top during the campaign’s opening few months, but all of a sudden they welcome United to Anfield three points behind their rivals.
But forget about Liverpool trying to draw level, what if United claim victory? They’d be six points clear with half the season played.
Should that happen, describing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men as title contenders wouldn’t be an opinion anymore – it would be fact.
And they’ll never get a better chance to do it. Here’s why…
Rashford loves playing against LiverpoolGetty – Pool
Liverpool’s defensive frailties
Liverpool been forced to play midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in defence due to their lengthy injury list at the back.
Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are long-term absentees, while Joel Matip has also struggled with various knocks this season.
What’s more, one first-choice defender they do have available has been horribly out-of-sorts: Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The England right-back was responsible for the goal which gave Southampton a 1-0 victory last time out in the Premier League – and that’s not the first time Alexander-Arnold has been caught out this season.
While his attacking qualities are well-established, the jury remains out on the 22-year-old’s defensive capabilities, which will be put to the test against an in-form Marcus Rashford – who has three goals in his last four games against the Reds.
Alexander-Arnold has not been at his bestGetty Images – Getty
Liverpool’s attack gone stale
The Reds haven’t failed to scored in three consecutive Premier League games since March 2005 – but their attack looks fried.
Diogo Jota’s injury, which came during a Champions League dead rubber, has meant little rest for Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.
They have looked a far cry from the trio who tore Crystal Palace apart during the 7-0 win at Selhurst Park before Christmas – and perhaps the hectic schedule has taken its toll.
The start of January has brought more rest, which Klopp will hope injects a bit of life into his misfiring front three.
The goals have dried up for SalahAFP
Anfield is a fortress – but Man United are on fire away from home
The head-to-head stats, admittedly, don’t point in Man United’s favour, and Liverpool have had the better of their rivals in recent years.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has drawn two and lost one of his league meetings with the Reds, and both previous trips to Anfield have ended in defeat for United.
That said, the Red Devils’ record on the road this season is simply outstanding.
They’ve take 22 points from a possible 24, winning seven of their eight matches away from home, plus drawing at Leicester.
Their away form will be put to the ultimate test at a place where Liverpool haven’t lost in the league since April 2017.
If anyone can put an end to that spell, it’s Solskjaer’s league leaders this Sunday – and the timing of the trip could not be better for United.
This is United’s golden chance to beat LiverpoolAFP
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