For the second time in one week the eyes of the football world will be squarely focused on the North East of England where two heavyweights of the game, Manchester United and Liverpool once again lock horns for the 206th time.
However, unlike last weekend’s barren draw in the league, this meeting cannot end in a like manner as a winner must emerge in the standout fixture of the FA Cup 4th Round weekend. On Sunday last week, Liverpool playing at Anfield had the bulk of possession 66-34% while they had 14 shots to United’s four shots without actually creating clear cut scoring chances.
In fact had the Red Devils taken any of the two late chances they had then Liverpool’s long 68 games three and a half years unbeaten home record would have gone up in smoke.
Speaking after the game Jurgen Klopp said: “The performance was good enough to win it but to win a game you have to score goals and we didn’t do that, so that’s why we had that result.” Worryingly for Liverpool fans Sunday’s goalless draw was the club’s longest barren sequence in the league since February and March 2005 and unless things change it might cost them an ouster from the world’s oldest knock out competition.
On his part, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told BBC Sport: “It was an opportunity missed with the chances we had but then again we were playing a very good side. I’m disappointed but, still, a point is OK if you win the next one.
“We have improved and progressed. It’s not just the result we’re disappointed with; it’s some of the performance. I know these boys can play better.” And better they must play if the Norwegian is not to see his side crash out of another competition this season after heartbreaks in the Carabao Cup and Champions League.
Another thing that might ginger the Red Devils’ boss is the fact that he is yet to beat a top side this season and with no second chance in the FA Cup, he knows that he has to take more risks if he is to remain in the competition. Not having fans in Old Trafford means that Ole can still stick to his usual game plane of containment first while hoping to make hay through counter attacks.
I suspect both managers will make changes and tinker with their systems as they gear up for what should be a much better spectacle than the league clash with a ticket to the FA Cup 5th Round waiting for the winner. Incidentally the last time both met in the knock competition was January 28, 2012 at Anfield and it ended 2-1 in favour of Liverpool.
In other 4th Round ties today, Chelsea host Championship side, Luton Town in the first game of the day and is followed by Brentford of the Championship home to Leicester City and Premiership sides Fulham and Burnley squaring up at Craven Cottage.
The curtains fall on proceedings with a late all Premier League tie at Goodison Park between Everton and Sheffield Wednesday. Fourth Round action concludes tomorrow night with Championship side, Wycombe Wanderers hosting Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur.