It's the biggest match of the 2020-21 Premier League season thus far, but injuries could derail the plans of both managers in Sunday's blockbuster Liverpool vs. Manchester United contest.
The teams head into the weekend occupying the top two spots on the table, with United three points clear of the Reds. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men boast the best form in the top flight, having gone undefeated since Nov. 1 in league play, but United may have to make do without several regulars when they travel to Anfield for the top-of-the-table clash.
Anthony Martial and Nemanja Matic each picked up late injuries in United 1-0 win over Burnley on Tuesday, with Martial seemingly worse off as he limped to the sidelines deep into stoppage time with an apparent hamstring problem. Matic was able to finish Tuesday's game, but the midfielder also went down late — with a groin issue.
The extent of both players' injuries is unknown, but Matic's postgame comments were already focused on Liverpool, indicating that the 32-year-old deems himself good to go.
"Sunday is the biggest derby in England, we go there to compete with them and see where we are against one of the best teams in England, but we're ready," Matic said. "We’ve played 17 games, we’re top of the table, that shows something, it’s not five or six games, after 17 games it’s definitely not lucky, there is a quality but we can’t relax, we have to concentrate until the end and go game by game. The next one is always the biggest final."
Another United player whose availability is undetermined is defender Victor Lindelof. The Swede has been hampered by back problems that have seen him in and out of Solskjaer's squad, although the manager said that Lindelof was under consideration for the Burnley match until a "little reaction" ruled him out.
Meanwhile, Jurgen Klopp has been dealing with an injury crisis all season long, and the Liverpool manager admits that his back line will once again be a makeshift one against the Red Devils. With Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez both out long term, Klopp is being extra careful with centre back Joel Matip.
The 29-year-old defender hasn't featured for Liverpool since Dec. 27 as he recovers from an adductor strain, but Matip is closing in on a return.
Yet even with Matip's improving fitness, Klopp is loathe to commit one of his last remaining experienced centre backs to Sunday's match. That's because Liverpool's fixture list is extremely congested, with the club set to play 10 games in 34 days — including another meeting with United on Jan. 24 in the FA Cup — so keeping Matip out until absolutely necessary may by Klopp's best option.
“After the United game we will obviously play every three days again, so… for the United game, we will see,” Klopp said of Matip's potential inclusion on Sunday.