Momentum is a key – perhaps the key – component to any team. When it’s absent, times can seldom look bleaker. But when it’s present, a cohesive group of players can feel unstoppable.
Liverpool, most strikingly away from the hallowed Anfield turf, are currently on one of those runs. Good luck standing in their way. On Tuesday, on the very same pitch that they secured their sixth European crown, LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid tried and failed to stop the Red machine.
It’s now eight consecutive away matches where Jurgen Klopp’s side have scored three or more goals, dating back to mid-May. Even then, Alisson’s wondrous last-minute header against West Brom made it an occasion to remember in a top four-sealing 2-1 triumph.
Liverpool scored three for the eighth consecutive away game against Atletico on Tuesday
The Reds are rampant in attack at the moment, spearheaded by the unstoppable Mo Salah
LIVERPOOL’S LAST EIGHT AWAY MATCHES
Oct 19: Atletico Madrid 2-3 Liverpool
Oct 16: Watford 0-5 Liverpool
Sep 28: Porto 1-5 Liverpool
Sep 25: Brentford 3-3 Liverpool
Sep 21: Norwich 0-3 Liverpool (LC)
Sep 12: Leeds 0-3 Liverpool
Aug 14: Norwich 0-3 Liverpool
May 19: Burnley 0-3 Liverpool
The last time Liverpool were shut out on the road? Their first match of 2021, a 1-0 loss at Southampton.
That’s 21 games and counting. They also scored four at an empty Old Trafford in May, their first win at the Theatre of Dreams under Klopp, and in seven years.
Plenty to think about then for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s confidence-bereft Manchester United side, who come into this game off the back of two losses and one draw in their last three Premier League games, with four conceded at Leicester last Saturday.
They also looked all at sea in the first half against Atlanta, conceding two cheap goals, before a stirring comeback led by – who else? – Cristiano Ronaldo.
Yet a rampant Reds is the last thing the United boss needs to roll into town right now.
Because at the moment, Liverpool are the most in-form team in Europe. Whilst not perfect – due to draws against Chelsea, Brentford and Man City – they are unbeaten in all competitions and they’ve also scored 22 Premier League goals, six ahead of nearest rivals Chelsea, City and United.
Klopp has got his side purring from the off this season, keen to win back the title from City and show their powers on the European stage once again.
The form of Salah, who is being described as the best on the planet in some quarters at the moment, will be of huge concern to United’s leaky defence.
Sadio Mane is linking up with Salah like old times again, with both players in terrific form
Likely to be up against Luke Shaw on the flank, with an off-the-pace Harry Maguire further inside, the Egyptian King will be smelling blood come Sunday. He turned City’s defence inside-out… so why not United’s?
Elsewhere in attack, Sadio Mane has rediscovered the shooting boots that went missing during the second half of last season. The Senegalese is on six goals in all competitions and is on Salah’s wavelength in a manner going back to that title-winning campaign of two years ago.
He hit a landmark of his own at Vicarage Road last week, scoring his 100th Premier League goal and becoming just the third player in history to reach that mark without a penalty to his name. Quite the feat.
As for the third occupant of that attacking trio, that has rotated between Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota since the season started, with the Brazilian the likely starter at Old Trafford as a result of his hat-trick last week.
Diogo Jota (L) and Roberto Firmino (R) are also not short of goals as the third occupant up front
Yet at the moment, Firmino is Jurgen Klopp’s trusted man alongside Salah and Mane up top
Either one of them, though, is a threat off the bench. Jota won a penalty against Atletico on Tuesday, to prove that point.
Klopp is blessed with options at the moment, and the odd goal from the likes of Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita have helped the scoring cause too.
So, on paper, Liverpool’s attacking strengths match up to United’s defensive frailties quite perfectly from a Merseyside standpoint.
Solskjaer’s defence have not kept a clean sheet since August, a run of nine games in all competitions.
Against Everton before the international break, they were caught out far too easily on the counter-attack, while set-pieces have been an issue too, with defeats to Aston Villa and Leicester illustrating their vulnerabilities from dead-ball situations.
Atalanta’s second on Wednesday night, too, was a hopeless display of man-marking in the penalty area. Virgil van Dijk should be licking his lips.
Manchester United have looked vulnerable both on the counter-attack and from set-pieces
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer badly needs a result at Old Trafford, amid a poor run of form in the league
Are there any positives for Solskjaer? Well, Klopp’s record at Old Trafford is somewhat poor – the 4-2 win in May was his first win in seven attempts and he has a tendency to set his team up a tad more conservatively than usual at the Theatre of Dreams.
Yet the Norwegian, beyond all else, needs his side to show some grit and determination against their fiercest rivals. A defeat would see them fall seven points behind Liverpool already, after just nine games.
As if the tension wasn’t palpable enough now, with games against Tottenham, City and Chelsea to come before December, a home defeat really would get temperatures boiling at Old Trafford.
Ole needs a performance – and a result.