This week’s Inside Edge analysis from Nick Haynes at Form Labs – a division of Bettorlogic – begins by looking at this weekend’s Premier League blockbuster at Anfield, and whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men can retain their spot at the top of the table.
The Red Devils currently sit three points clear of their rivals at the top of the table, though they’ll have to bring their ‘A’ game if they want to end Liverpool’s 67 game unbeaten home run in the league.
Amazingly, this is the first time since April 1997 that these two have gone head-to-head as a top of the table clash, and as a result, we’d expect this to be the fiercest Northwest derby in the post-Ferguson era. Man United ran out 3-1 winners at Anfield on that day on their way to lifting the title.
Liverpool v Man United
This is already one of the biggest rivalries in football history and there are a multitude of economic, geographical, and industrial factors that contribute to that, though their shared footballing dominance and global influence have always been the catalyst.
The rivalry has weakened in recent years as Man Utd (11/4) aren’t the force they once were, though these sides have 39 league titles between them and if Liverpool (24/23) were to claim their second Premier League in as many years, there would be nothing to separate the two in that regard and the rivalry of the past could be sparked once again.
Derbies tend to be more ferocious affairs and with that comes an increase in bookings. Up until ‘Project Restart’, there has been an increase of 37.1% in the four big Premier League derbies (Merseyside, Manchester, North London and Northwest) since 2002/03.
This derby has seen an average of 48.97 booking points alone in the same time frame, though in truth that has tailed off massively in recent years as the rivalry has waned, which has largely coincided with the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson from Old Trafford. That 48.97 has dropped to just 30 over the last eight fixtures as there’s not been a single sending-off since the 2014/15 season. While that would indicate it’s worth selling on the spread this time around, with both seemingly in a title race this year we wouldn’t be too sure, especially with the official in charge.
Paul Tierney will take control of his first Northwest Derby this weekend and his record will have United fans the happier of the two. In his last 10 matches officiating Man United, he’s awarded Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men five penalties, while he’s not awarded Liverpool a single spot-kick in his last 14 games, and the only penalty he’s awarded this season has been against the Reds. What’s more, he’s the only referee this season who is yet to officiate a game in which the home side has won (D6-L5).
While we won’t read too much into his penalty count, his booking points should be worthy of note. His 47.65 booking points per game is second only to Stuart Attwell’s 50.55 so far this campaign going into the weekend, and with the expected elevated passion in comparison to recent years, we wouldn’t be surprised if Tierney were trigger happy with his cards once again.
Solskjaer’s men will be coming into this with a lot of confidence having gone 11 games unbeaten in the league, while their unbeaten domestic form on the road over the last 12 months has been exceptional, going W18-D4 from their last 22 trips. However, they have had very few challenges at all venues this term and are yet to beat one of the traditional ‘Big Six’ sides or Leicester, going D3-L2 against such teams.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have certainly gone off the boil compared to last year, though in truth they seemed to come unstuck after defeat to Watford last season, winning just 15 of their 28 matches dating back to that result. The Reds are a different animal at Anfield though as their unbeaten streak confirms, though if there’s any time to play them and end that run it’s now for United.
Liverpool has failed to win their last three league games for the first time since May 2018, while they also were held to the hour mark by Aston Villa’s youth team in the FA Cup last time out so there are certainly some creases for the manager to iron out. The one thing that does go in the hosts’ favour other than the venue is the head-to-head record, with the Red Devils winning just one of the last 10 meetings across all competitions, while Liverpool have won this fixture in each of the last two seasons.
With very little to separate them, it’s not hard to see this one ending all square (29/10), as it has done in six of the last nine meetings. While three of five meetings with big clubs this season have ended in a stalemate for United, only Brighton have played out more draws than the champions Liverpool.
NFL Post Season – Key Stats
Rams (+270)@ Packers (-283)
- The Packers (13-3) lead the league in passing touchdowns this year, with Aaron Rogers’ 48 making him only the second man to throw 45+ TDs in multiple seasons behind Peyton Manning, while he also had the highest completion rate from any QB throwing 1,000+ yards.
- The Rams (11-6) are the best pass defensive side in the NFL this year. They have conceded the fewest Pass TDs (17), four fewer than second-best Washington, fewest pass yards (3,051) and fewest yards per attempt (6.2).
- Only the Steelers have completed more sacks than the Rams this year, while they completed five in their last outing in the Wildcard Round over the Seahawks.
Browns (+420) @ Chiefs (-450)
- The Chiefs (14-2) haven’t won by more than six points in any of their last eight matches dating back to the beginning of November.
- The Chiefs are the only franchise to have passed for over 5,000 yards in the NFL this year. Only the Packers have passed for more touchdowns than the Chiefs, while the Browns (11-5) rank 25th in scoring against the pass.
- Only the Ravens and the Titans have more rushing yards than the Browns this year, while the Chiefs rank 21st against the rush in the NFL, the worst of the teams to make the playoffs.
Ravens (+134) @ Bills (-138)
- The Ravens (12-5) ranked 1st in rushing yards in the NFL, and 2nd in rushing scores.
- The Ravens have the 2nd best defence in the NFL conceding just 18.9 points per game, limiting the Titans to just 51 rushing yards last weekend, while they also rank 6th in defending passing yards this season.
- The Bills (14-3) ranked 2nd in total scores and total yardage this season, while they also led the league in 3rd down conversion at 49.7%
Buccaneers (+150) @ Saints (-155)
- Tom Brady has inspired the Buccaneers (11-5) to their first Divisional Round since they won the Super Bowl back in 2002, ranking 3rd for passing yards and ties 2nd in touchdown passes.
- The Buccaneers rank 4th for passing yards and 2nd for touchdown passes in the league, while they have the best rush defence in the league, leading the way in rush yards (1,289), yards per carry (3.6) and rushed TDs (10).
- The Saints (12-4) rank 5th in defending passing yards this season (3,472), though have scored the most rush touchdowns in the league (30).
Stat of the day
- Sunday’s clash between Liverpool and Man Utd will be the first time since April 1997 that the two sides have gone head-to-head as a top of the table clash.